Chemainus Secondary School provided Sam Baker with all the necessary educational requirements and Nanaimo Pirates the baseball training for him to reach the next level.
Baker, who turns 20 on Feb. 2, is in his second year at Monterey Peninsula College in Monterey, California but it’s almost like a new beginning for him with the college baseball season fast approaching. While he got right into his courses toward a major in economics, Baker did not see any regular season baseball game action last season.
The decision was made to “red-shirt” (sit out to attain eligibility) so it’s essentially his freshman year all over again as far as baseball is concerned.
“I played in exhibition games,” Baker explained. “In the end, it was for the best, I think. It set me up to be able to transfer better in terms of baseball ability.”
It was a mutual decision with manager Dan Phillips for Baker to play the waiting game for his chance.
“We had only two freshman pitchers make the team,” Baker noted. “He suggested I should (red shirt) because I wouldn’t be able to play enough for it to be super valuable for me moving on.
“It was frustrating at first. I ended up pitching in exhibition and intersquad more than I would have had I been on the team, though. I think I got a lot better physically and mentally.”
After coming home to Chemainus for the holidays, Baker returned to California Jan. 2 ready to embark on his next quest for complete integration into the Div. 1 Junior College baseball ranks.
The MPC Lobos, who play in the Coast Conference of the California Community College Athletic Association, headed straight into training for the regular season opener on Jan. 26 and Baker hopes to be a big part of it, either in the starting rotation or as a closer.
“I’m finally getting that opportunity,” he said. “I’d like to start when I get the opportunity.
“It’s going to be fun, definitely looking forward to the end of January.”
Baker would prefer to be a starter, but “whatever happens, I’ll be happy with it.”
Last summer, Baker spent considerable time honing his skills at a baseball training facility in Seattle in anticipation of his elevated role.
“There’s just a ton of guys that train there in the summer,” he pointed out.
Baker spent a month back home in Chemainus working for the rest of the summer before starting his second year of academics at Monterey.
“The school’s been good,” he said.
And Baker is pleased in hindsight with the level of education at Chemainus that prepared him for college.
“Going to a post-secondary, I wasn’t sure coming from a small town,” he conceded. “I found even coming from a public school in a small town, the courses and the teaching was challenging enough. I was definitely prepared for the academic side of things.
“The teachers there really pushed us enough. I was quite prepared for all my classes I found.”
On the baseball side, the Pirates program was a great stepping stone for him. “That’s as good as it gets for high school baseball,” Baker conceded.
With several spring training practices already under his belt, Baker is geared up for the campaign in keeping with the usual California baseball weather at this time of the year.
Monterey is a two-year school for baseball eligibility. Depending how well he plays, Baker can transfer to a Div. 1 or 2 school next year.
“If I don’t, I can stay another year,” he said.
University of California San Diego and Chico State are on his radar.
“Both of those schools I’m pretty interested in,” Baker noted.
But he’ll be taking it one pitch at a time first before decision time arrives.