12/29/2015 4:30 PM -
Whiting, Ind. – December 29, 2015 – The Northwest Indiana Oilmen have continued to load their roster with the addition of Illinois-Chicago outfielder Chris Baker.
Baker, a graduate of Marian Catholic High School and native of South Holland, Illinois, is a redshirt freshman after sitting out last season to retain four years of eligibility. He becomes the 12th announced member of the 2016 Northwest Indiana Oilmen and the eighth Division-I player on the roster.
Redshirting a year ago gave Baker a chance to observe, practice and hone his skills.
“It was a time for me to grow mentally,” he said. “It helped me a lot to slow the game down and play at a level that works for me. I now have a different perspective on how I play.”
Baker compiled a .288 batting average, drove in 20 runs and launched two home runs as a high school senior at Marian Catholic. He made enough of an impression in high school to earn a spot on longtime UIC coach Mike Dee’s roster.
“I chose UIC because it turned out to be a really good school,” Baker said. “They have a solid baseball program and the coaches decided to give me a shot. It is close to home, which also turned out to be a plus for me.”
The Flames are coming off a 29-22 season that saw them net the 2015 Horizon League regular season title. The program is best known for producing major league outfielder Curtis Granderson, who played in the World Series with the New York Mets this past October.
The Flames play at state-of-the-art Granderson Stadium in downtown Chicago.
“The field is insane,” Baker said. “Last year, I went out there and worked every day and it was one of the best fields I’ve ever played on, with the best backdrop I’ve ever seen. The tradition of UIC has grown so much and that tradition continues to this day.”
One of the highlights of Baker’s baseball career came this summer while participating in the National Baseball Congress World Series as a member of the Crestwood Panthers. In the bottom of the sixth inning of a road game against the El Dorado Broncos, Baker caught a fly ball and unleashed a perfect throw to the plate to complete a double play on the runner attempting to score.
“I fired him out in front of 2,000 people,” Baker said. “They were the home team, but the crowd just went wild. I put it right there, and the catcher made a good play on the ball and made the tag. That was one of my best experiences ever.”
Baker is ready to enjoy more positive experiences with the Oilmen, a team that was recommended to him by former Oilman Brian Seymour and former Southland Viking Luis Avila, both of whom are Baker’s former teammates.
“It’ll be close to home, so I can do things that I need to do at home during the summer,” Baker said. “At the same time, I can stay close and still play very competitive baseball.”