OTTAWA – Simon Baker is not your typical high school baseball star.
The outfielder/pitcher from Cochrane, Alberta, has everything you might want in a ball player, including size, speed, and power, all of which were on display at the Toronto Blue Jays Canadian Futures Showcase here last week.
Being such a gifted athlete at only 16-years-old, it would be understandable if Baker fancied himself to be larger than life, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth.
“I am never satisfied with where I am at,” said the promising young player, between games. “There is always better baseball to be played.”
A mindset like that is essential for any athlete that aspires to achieve the highest level at his sport, but it is not unusual for gifted young men and women to fall victim to their own talents and start to float.
Baker’s coaches are not concerned in the least that something like that could happen to him.
“If anybody has reason to walk around like they’re better than everybody it’s him,” said former Team Canada catcher Cole Armstrong, who is the young outfielder’s hitting coordinator with the Wildcats Baseball program in Calgary, Alberta.
“He is 6-foot-4, can project 25 pounds on that frame, and then the speed. It’s a rare thing,” added the coach. “But he’s just one of the guys, he is so great with his teammates and treats everybody with a tremendous amount of respect.
“His parents have a lot to be proud of.”
The pressure of being one of the top Canadian youth baseball players never seemed to get to his head despite being one of the youngest players at the Showcase.
Maybe because the outfielder already has experience playing in high pressure scenarios, winning a silver medal with Team Alberta at the Canada Summer Games earlier this year.
“You don’t see players like Simon very often come through in youth sports,” said Jeff Peach, the Senior Director of Baseball Operations at the Calgary Wildcats. “No moment really seems too big for him.
“He has that mindset that elite athletes do where he goes out and plays. He tries not to make the moment any bigger than what it is.”
Baker put up a good performance at the Showcase, scoring four runs on two hits, three walks and stealing three bases in three games.
The youngster also seemed to get better each time out, going one-for-one with a walk and a run in his final game of the tournament.
When a player displays that kind of humility and work ethic, his teammates start to take notice.
“He is somebody who people gravitate towards because of the person he is and the character he demonstrates when he is out there,” coach Armstrong said.
The young phenom has learned how to be an athlete by playing multiple sports throughout his childhood, most notably hockey, but didn’t expect to be in a position to showcase his baseball talents in front of scouts from all over North America.
“A couple years ago I never even dreamed of doing this,” said the outfielder for Team Navy. “It really is a privilege to be here.”
The Albertan already sounds like a veteran answering questions, from how his swing could be improved to noting that there isn’t anybody his game is modeled after, rather that his focus is on adapating with every game and every pitch.
Time moves fast for young players, and two years from now there is no telling what is going to happen, but it is inevitable to draw lofty expectations for a player receiving high praise at such a young age.
“I think it’s whatever he wants it to be,” Peach said about Baker’s ceiling. “The nice thing for him is he’s got so many options and doesn’t have to force the issue right now.”