Cassville High School senior Michael Baker has signed an official letter of intent and accepted a scholarship to further his baseball career at Meramec Community College, which is located outside St. Louis, next fall.
Baker, a left-handed pitcher for the Wildcats, finished his last high school season with a 4-1 record and recorded 27 strikeouts in 33 innings of work. As a junior, Baker hit for a .288 average while blasting two home-runs and 13 RBI.
In addition to his outstanding baseball career at Cassville, Baker played on the Wildcat football team, and this season, garnered All-Big 8 second team honors for his play at tight-end.
"He (Baker) works, he is a hard worker," said American Legion baseball assistant coach Jeremy Marple, who coached him during the 2006 and 2007 summers.
Last year, during American Legion play, Baker got a chance to pitch in their very first contest against Harrison. Although he had trouble recording a single out, Baker wasn't deterred by this "hiccup." He worked hard, got to practices early, left late and didn't skip out on the exercises as some athletes tend to do.
Because of this, near the end of the summer, Baker became the Legion teams' hottest pitcher, even earning a start in their district championship contest.
"Toward the end, the last five-game stretch, he was the best we had," said Jeremy Marple.
"I feel like he is a strong competitor," said American Legion baseball head coach Jerry Marple, "He certainly doesn't like to come out of a game, but as a coach you like that in a kid."
That improvement will also be rewarded this spring season. A starting spot is waiting for the senior on the Cassville High School baseball team.
"This year Michael will be counted on as a leader," said Cassville High School baseball head coach Rod Hemphill, who acknowledges work ethic, leadership and ability as some of the best qualities Baker possesses as a player.
All three coaches spoke of Baker's hard work and practice energy. According to Hemphill and Jerry Marple, Baker was likely the first to show up, always did everything he was asked and was a fierce competitor.
"I just always want to be there to play and win," said Baker.
In choosing Meramec College, Baker might just be joining a dynasty. Currently the squads' head coach, who has been at the junior college for six years, has taken his team consistently to the junior college final four. Meramec also has a history of turning out major league players having more than 10 on their history books.
So what interested Meramec in Baker??
Well, the big 6'4 lefty throws many typical high school pitches as well as a few others. He has a four-seam fastball, a change-up and a curveball. Baker also has a two-seam fastball and a slider that he worked on over the summer. His change-up, actually a circle change, is Baker's favorite pitch.
"(His best pitch is) by far his change-up pitch," said Hemphill, "It moves a lot and has the same arm motion as his fast-ball."
Meramec coaches also like Baker's potential to increase his fastball. Baker currently has been clocked as fast as 81 miles per hour, but some believe he might be able to up that as much as 10 miles per hour.
Baker could join Meramec's starting line-up as early as his freshman year and looks forward to the opportunity.