On Tuesday morning I fell in love with the Cleveland Indians.
At roughly 11:45 a.m. Alaska time, in the fifth round of the Major League Baseball Draft, the Indians used the 173rd overall pick to bring former Crimson Bears’ pitcher Dylan Baker into their organization.
Why, if it were 1936 I would be saying Bob Feller is going to be fun to watch.
This is an organization that in 1948, amid much controversy, took Satchel Paige from the Negro League at age 42. That was also the year the Indians won their second World Series Championship (1920 was the first).
Now they can start working on that third trophy.
“I am definitely relieved,” Baker said. “”It was pretty stressful. It was nice to see my name come on the board.”
Teams were calling Baker’s advisor throughout the draft stating that they were going to draft him. Then they would not.
“But the Indians said 100-percent for sure they were taking me with the next pick and they did,” Baker said. “I had talked to their scout a long time ago. Honestly I did not think they were one of the teams interested in me at all. But they were, so it is all good.”
To top it off, Baker’s favorite baseball movie is Major League, starring (among others) Charlie Sheen, and Tom Berenger, Wesley Snipes. The fictionalized satire was about the hapless Cleveland Indians team and their turnaround to greatness.
“That is pretty crazy,” Baker said. “I love that movie. I have liked the Indians, I always have.”
Baker will now return to Alaska for a week. The Indians will then fly him out to Ohio to get situated. Baker will either begin playing in the Indian’s Arizona Rookie League or stay in Ohio and play for their Advanced Class A Short Season Mahoning Valley Scrappers.
No matter where he goes Baker is now a member of the “Tribe” and will have the Chief Wahoo logo on his uniform.
As a minor league player he will be making about $2000 a month, plus a host family will take him in which saves housing costs, and the organization provides baseball gear and wear.
“I have my advisor,” Baker said. “And I will stick with him to be my agent. I really like him.”
Baker is expected to be given a $200,000 signing bonus.
“I am not complaining,” Baker said. “I get to play what I love to do.”
After his name came on the board Baker received a phone call from the Indians area scout from the Pacific Norwest, Don Lyle.
“He said congratulations you are a Cleveland Indian,” Baker said. “Now I have a couple days to relax in Alaska and then just go play baseball.”
Baker’s MLB draft report stated: The junior college ranks always produce some good talent and in 2012, Baker might be the best from that pool. With a strong, durable and athletic build, Baker is what teams want to see on the mound. He could have at least three Major League average pitches with solid average command. His fastball sits comfortably around 92 mph, but he can dial it up to 95 mph when he needs to, and it has some pretty good run and sink to it. His secondary stuff is behind the fastball, but his curve has the kind of rotation you’re looking for and he has shown a feel for a changeup with decent fade. He gets very high marks for his competitive nature on the mound. While it might take some time for those secondary pitches to develop and for it all to come together, Baker’s upside will make him a solid force in the back of a major league bullpen.
Baker joins 1999 JDHS graduate Chad Bentz as just the second Crimson Bears’ player to be drafted by the MLB. Bentz was a relief pitcher for Montreal in 2004 and Florida in 2005.
A little light reading:
Cleveland baseball began as the amateur Forest Citys from 1865 to 1868 and became pro with the same name in 1869 until disbanded in 1872.
They were back from 1879-1881 as the Forest Citys and as the Cleveland Blues from 1882-84. Again they disbanded and in 1887-99 were the Cleveland Spiders, in 1890 the Cleveland Infants.
The Cleveland Indians franchise began in 1990 when with the Grand Rapids Rustlers (founded in ‘84) moved to town. They became the Lake Shores; in 1901 they became the Cleveland Bluebirds, the Bronchos in ‘02 and Naps from ‘03-’12.
Even Cy Young pitched there, albeit in his last three ineffective years from 1909. They were anchored by Nap Lajoie and Shoeless Joe Jackson but didn’t have the pitching. In 1912 their name became the Cleveland Molly McGuires (a testament to the coal miners who were heroes in that area). They finished at the bottom of the league in 1914 and ‘15.
The name Indians came in 1915 as a play on the name of the Boston Braves (known as the Miracle Braves) who went from last place to a sweep of the 1914 World Series. Fans were hoping for some of the same mojo.
Amid the Black Sox Scandal of 1920, Tris Speaker led the Indians to their first series title, over the Brooklyn Robins. That world series included three memorable “firsts”, all of them in Game 5 at Cleveland, and all by the home team. In the first inning, right fielder Elmer Smith hit the first Series grand slam. In the fourth inning, Jim Bagby hit the first Series home run by a pitcher. And in the top of the fifth inning, second baseman Bill Wambsganss executed the first unassisted triple play in World Series history.
Other notables to play for Cleveland included: Larry Doby, Lou Boudreau, Minnie Minoso, Al Rosen, Bobby Avila, Early Wynn, Bob Lemon, Mike Garcia, Luke Easter, Joe Carter, Mel Hall, Julio Franco, Cory Snyder, Brett Butler, Bob Ojeda, Steve Olin, Kenny Lofton, Sandy Alomar Jr., Carlos Baerga, Albert Belle, Charles Nagy, Jim Thome, Manny Ramirez, Jose Mesa, Ricardo Rincon, Roberto Alomar, Ellis Burks, Juan Gonzalez, Alex Escobar, Bartolo Colon, Grady Sizemore, Coco Crisp, Orel Hershiser, Eddy Murray, Jim Thome and Ubaldo Jimenez.
Roger Maris and Norm Cash belonged to Cleveland but were traded before playing. Opps.
That mistake by general manager Frank “Trader” Lane was nothing compared to the “The Curse of Rocky Colavito.”
In 1960 lane traded slugging right fielder and fan favorite Colavito (the ‘59 American League home run co-champion) to Detroit for Harvey Kuenn (the AL batting champ). After the trade Colavito hit over 30 HRs four times and made three all-star teams while Kuenn played just one season for Cleveland. In 1965 the Indians traded Tommy John (went on to win 288 games) and ‘66 Rookie of the Year Tommy Agee to the White Sox to get Colavito back.
In the 70s they traded away Graig Nettles, Dennis Eckersley, Buddy Bell and Chris Chambliss. In ‘72 however the Indians got Gaylord Perry who became the franchise’s first Cy Young Award winner.
But why bother with all this history.
Now we have a new Cleveland Indians player to follow... and, no matter, where he goes or what he does, one thing is certain:
Dylan Baker will be fun to watch... and to read about.