Teams, organizations, and institutions all function most effectively when their members choose to operate with a clear, focused vision of priorities. Count Landen Baker, a 2023 uncommitted catcher and first baseman, among those who can be depended upon to conduct himself with high standards. The freshman, out of Southern Nash High School in Bailey, NC, has what one might say a “good head on his shoulders.”
His decision making has promoted his success both on and off the baseball field. A multi-sport athlete who is also an offensive tackle in football and takes the court as a center in basketball, Landen has never been one to shy away from the work necessary to improve in any endeavor.
The work ethic and the skills Baker has developed were obvious when he joined the Dirtbags in the summer of 2019. Finding himself on the Chin Music team, Landen was under the tutelage of Logan Koch. As the Middle School Director for the organization, Koch was responsible for putting together the group that came in as the 2023 class and he found Baker to be unique in terms of his attitude towards improving in the game.
“Baker has really taken some big steps forward the last year and a half. He was a pleasure to coach and is a really hard working dude. While I am really impressed with our 2023 class, Baker stands out to me because of his work ethic,” according to Koch.
A sense of having those high personal standards also jumped out to Logan Koch, as he commented about Baker, “He is one of those guys that I don’t worry about what he is doing when no one is looking. I know he is working off the field and it shows on the field.”
As a player, Landen says he wants that approach to improvement to show on the field by playing as hard as he can, and “leave it all out there.” While he counts hitting as a strength right now, his efforts to make strides defensively are continuous no matter the position.
Koch seems to agree, saying, “In the box he can really do damage and is a much improved defender.”
Though the high school season is currently suspended across the state due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Landen was making quite the impression to his scholastic debut. After playing JV for the first couple of games, he moved to the varsity and started off 5 for 10 at the plate and even posted 8 K’s in 7IP off the mound.
Excited about the summer when the Dirtbags take the field again, Baker hopes to continue being a force at the plate and show solid defensive skills behind the dish. He adds he wants to be ready to be his best when it counts the most. And that includes playing in the “big time” events, as he experienced last year when Chin Music went to Texas. It was in the Future Stars Series that Landen felt his team’s chemistry really gelled and played some of their best baseball.
Appreciating the experiences to play and to get better, Baker also seems to appreciate the influences outside baseball that equally impact his play and person. As a three-sport athlete he has had the benefit of being a part of a tremendously successful program and supportive community.
The Firebirds at Southern Nash are a force in 3A football in NC and Baker attributes that largely to the culture the program emphasizes.
“Our football program is a family, a brotherhood. He (coach Brian Foster) does it right,” says Baker.
Landen also recognizes that the program’s values have bled into other sports and the school culture at Southern Nash. And when it comes to his efforts on the baseball field, he has leveraged those experiences into his own success.
Beyond his work ethic, another area Baker seems to have it all together is his decision making driven by his faith. He emphasized school and his faith are both a big deal to him.
As a member of his school’s Fellowship of Christian Athletes, he attributed his beliefs as a major influence in how he looks to handle both success and disappointment. When asked if his faith impacted his approach to competing on the athletic field he was very clear.
“(It) plays a big part in doing the right thing. Knowing how to lose and how to win. Being humble,” acknowledged Baker.
He says if events on the field don’t go well or he plays bad, he knows it will be okay and he will get a chance to fix it at practice.
All of that seems to fit into what Baker sees as what it means to be a Dirtbag. The hard work, the 100% effort on and off the field, and the mentality of the team.
Working on those skills and wanting to play at a higher level is what ultimately drove him to choose to be Dirtbag. Baker says he wanted to be pushed to elevate his performance on the diamond. Additionally, he says the Dirtbags will help a player like himself get seen by colleges.
Looking forward to the 2020 summer to take the field with the Bags, Landen hopes to catch the eye of some college programs looking to fill their future rosters with hard-working, physical players who will provide just as much integrity to their team’s culture as he will firepower to their lineup.
When speaking about what he may be looking for when it comes to a school and a baseball program, he admitted the process is just beginning for him but emphasized the need to have a staff that cares for him as a person to be among the criteria.
Such a program will surely come to know that his baseball journey and his personal journey are ultimately done side by side, with a clear vision of the priorities in both.