TCU first baseman Luken Baker made the trip to Omaha, where his presence in the lineup is missed but not in the dugout.
“The most positive guy on this team,” right fielder Austen Wade said. “Every single day, he’s saying hello to someone, asking how you are, if you feel good at the plate, talking to you at practice.”
Baker has not played since May 12 at Oklahoma, when he suffered a ligament injury, torn muscle and hairline fracture in his left elbow in a collision with a baserunner as he reached back for a throw. He was ruled out of postseason on May 29, when the NCAA tournament bracket was announced.
“Without him on the field, we lose a big factor to our team,” Wade said. “But when he’s in the dugout with us, he’s talking baseball all the time. That’s a good mind to have around you, a good positive influence.”
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Baker considers it part of his duties as a teammate.
“That’s what I want to do,” he said. “I wanted to be here.”
TCU is 10-5 since Baker’s injury, including 10 of the last 13 and five straight wins in the NCAA postseason.
“There’s no question that was a big loss. We still feel it, for sure,” coach Jim Schlossnagle said. “But it happened long enough ago that we’ve been able to process that. He processed it great. If anyone continues to pout about it, it’s probably me. Every time I write a lineup, I sure wish he was hitting cleanup.”
Baker said he had the cast removed Thursday from his surgery three weeks ago and plans to be ready to participate in fall practices.
Pinch hit this week?
Baker laughed. “I would love to,” he said.
Schlossnagle isn’t surprised by Baker’s coach-like influence while he’s sidelined.
“Luken’s a smart guy. He’s at TCU not just on a baseball scholarship, but an academic scholarship,” he said. “Really high ACT score. He pays attention to what’s going on. He pays attention to how people are pitching people. I think he adds a lot, and guys respect him. He’s not just a big slug up there trying to hit it as far as he can. He pays attention to what happens during the course of a ballgame. He’s a good resource for everybody.”