Pro ball player gets back to hitting the books

September 08, 2009

Harold Baines Jr. is back to full-time student status this semester after spending the summer in his dream job as a professional baseball player with the Bristol White Sox. Competing in almost 70 games with only three days off was fun but grueling, he says.  His course schedule will also be demanding, but with an altogether different focus.

The senior Communication major with a minor in Film and Video Studies is taking 16 credits, including a challenging sociology course in quantitative research methods and a script-writing course for his major. He arrived on campus Sept. 2 around dawn, just hours after making two hits and helping the BriSox win its final game of the season 6-4 against Elizabethon in Tennessee.

“Harold had a good game – he went two for two,” said a spokesman for the Bri-Sox. The team, a Rookie League affiliate of the Chicago White Sox, finished the season with 27 wins and 39 losses.

“I definitely became a better baseball player while I was down there playing a game every day,” said Baines Jr., who was drafted by the White Sox in the 45th round of the 2009 Major League Baseball Amateur Draft on June 11. He was the first player taken from McDaniel in the 45 years of the draft.

Baines Jr. plans to follow in his father’s footsteps and don a Major League uniform in the future. The elder Baines played 22 years in the big leagues, including seven years with the Orioles and 14 with the White Sox, where he is now the first-base coach. A six-time all-star, he was inducted into the Baltimore Orioles Hall of Fame in July.

“I got to take a day off so I could fly up to Baltimore for the luncheon,” Baines Jr. said, adding that his dad was also able to get a day off to see him play for the first time in almost three years on July 15. It was a good game, too: Baines Jr. collected a single and scored a run to help the team win 6-3.

Even during this first season with the Rookie League, Baines Jr. got a taste of celebrity. Kids asked for his autograph and cheered his name as the BriSox traveled to games throughout North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia.

“The fans were very supportive. We’d go to these little towns where the only entertainment was baseball. It was real cool,” he said.

Besides honing his skills on the diamond, Baines Jr. said he gained a cultural education from the experience. Many of the players, ranging in age from 18 to 23, were from the Dominican Republic, Panama and Brazil.

“Learning to connect with them and talk with them was awesome,” he said. “I made some great friends.”

Now that he’s back on campus, Baines must set aside team sports. As a professional player, NCAA rules prohibit him from competing with the Green Terror. Instead, he plans to “keep up my good grades” and stay in shape by lifting weights.

“I love the campus fitness center,” he said.

Come February, Baines plans to be in spring training in Glendale, Ariz., instead of in classes. If all goes well with baseball, he won’t complete his final semester of college until sometime in the future. But when he was drafted, he promised his mother he would definitely finish.

“I’m going to keep my promise,” he said.