Desert Dispatches: TCU, ASU And MoreAt The Ballpark
It’s time to shake out the notebook from a busy weekend in Arizona. Here are some notes and observations about TCU, Arizona State, Grand Canyon and Gonzaga.
As a former major league player, Grand Canyon head coach Andy Stankiewicz has played with and against some of the game’s best hitters. And yet, he will still quick to laud TCU first baseman Luken Baker with impressive compliments.
“He’s one of the best big man hitters I’ve ever seen,” said Stankiewicz, who played alongside some terrific big men, including Hall of Famer to be Vladimir Guerrero. “He’s a rarity because he does such a great job for a big guy using the middle of the field. He just stays inside of the ball so well.”
Baker showed off his ability to stay inside the ball and his prodigious power when he unloaded on a hanging 1-1 slider in the fourth inning against Grand Canyon. Instead of pulling the ball foul like many hitters would do, Baker hit a missile to left-center field. Lopes left fielder Kona Quiggle took one step and maybe a half more before stopping, staring and admiring Baker’s solo bomb. It got out in a hurry.
Third baseman Zach Malis had an even better reaction. His shoulders slumped, he dropped his head and started kicking dirt before deciding to take a peek over his shoulder just to see how far it traveled. It was a monster home run and a reminder of what Baker is capable of. Baker missed the end of the 2017 season and his 2018 campaign nearly started disastrously. On Friday, a hard-hit grounder to first took a hard bounce and caromed off his eye, forcing him to leave the game and miss Saturday’s action.
Luckily, Baker sported no other wear from the ball than a black eye, which obviously did not affect his vision. Baker was back in the lineup at DH on Sunday, and singled through the left side in his first at-bat, homered in his second and drew two walks before being removed from the game for a pinch runner in extra innings.