When pro baseball calls, first call your mother

June 30, 2009

Before finalizing a deal with the Chicago White Sox to play professional baseball, Harold Baines Jr. had to reach an agreement with a higher authority: his mother.

Baines ’10 reported to Bristol, Tenn., on June 19 to join the Bristol White Sox, the big league team’s Rookie League affiliate. “Before I did this, I had to promise my mom that I would finish my college degree,” Baines said by phone while preparing for his first game on June 23. “I’m definitely going to keep my promise.”

Baines, a senior Communication major with a minor in Film and Video Studies and a two-year starter for the Green Terror, was drafted by the White Sox in the 45th round of the 2009 Major League Baseball Amateur Draft on June 11. Drafted as a left fielder with the 1,363rd overall pick, he was the first player taken from McDaniel in the 45 years of the draft.

“When you get drafted it means somebody’s interested in you and it’s an opportunity,” said Head Baseball Coach Dave Seibert. “You have to go when you’re hot because, more than likely, you won’t get that opportunity again.”

Baines was a second-team All-Centennial Conference selection in 2009. He compiled a .349 batting average during his two seasons of play at McDaniel after transferring from Randolph Macon. He finished with 88 base hits, including a program-record 48 in 2009. He also matched the program record with 11 doubles as a senior while adding three home runs for a .531 slugging percentage. His 34 runs scored in 2009 paced the team. He ranked second on the squad with 26 RBIs.

Baines will attempt to follow in his father’s footsteps and don a Major League uniform. 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, the elder Baines had a .289 career batting average with 384 home runs and 2,866 hits. A statue of him sits outside the Chicago stadium.

“I tried to play baseball before I could even walk, and I’m really excited to have the chance to play professionally,” said Baines, who grew up in his father’s hometown of St. Michael’s, Md. He said he tries to follow his dad’s advice to “keep a positive attitude and to always work hard, no matter what.”

With the last game of the Rookie League season scheduled for Sept. 1, Baines said he plans to return to McDaniel for the fall semester. But if things go his way on the diamond, Baines said he’ll be in spring training instead of in classes come February and won’t complete his final semester until sometime in the future.

“If Harold approaches baseball anything like the way he approached his work in my classes, he’s going to be a very successful young man,” said Associate Professor of Communication Jonathan Slade. “Harold always surprises me in class because he’s so quiet, but the gears are always turning in his head. He’s very sharp, very attentive to detail.”

Coach Seibert said Baines’ “excellent character” and “great swing” will serve him well as a professional ball player, but there’s no guarantee he’ll be promoted to the Majors.

“It’s a long way to get to ‘the Show’ and some guys never make it,” he said. But he’s glad Baines has a shot at it. “He can come back and finish his degree anytime. But his job opportunity in baseball is right now.”