Next Level: Baldwin Watches James III in Indiana
The last time former Pinecrest and major league pitcher James Baldwin was in Coveleski Stadium was in 1992 as a member of the city’s South Bend (Ind.) White Sox.
He returned on Monday to watch his son James III play a three-game series for the Great Lakes Loons against the now South Bend Silver Hawks. James III is in his third year of pro ball after being drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the fourth round in 2010 following his graduation from Pinecrest.
“Actually it was pretty cool,” the elder Baldwin said of the return to a place that was a stepping stone to an 11-year big league career, most of it as member of the White Sox.
“I got to see some old friends, radio people, and Mark Haley, the hitting coach, is now the manager.”
He also got to watch the kind of performance that has James III ranked as the Dodgers’ No. 9 prospect. The Loon centerfielder and lead-off hitter went 3-for-5, including two triples. He scored three runs and knocked in three in the 8-2 road victory.
“It was really neat to sit down and watch him hit the triples,” he said. “I called Sharon (wife) and it was a lot of fun. We got to have breakfast and lunch together.”
James III struggled mightily at the plate in April and May. In the three-game series against South Bend, he was a combined 5-for-13 with five runs scored, two doubles, two triples and four RBI.
Currently batting .215 for the season, the strong series gave him an encouraging .302 average over the last 10 games. He is tied for second in the Midwest League in steals with 28 in 30 attempts and is third on the Loons in runs scored with 35.
“I just told him you are going to go through spells like this,” James II said of his son’s struggles with the bat.“He’s in good spirits.”
On the way to South Bend, Baldwin joined other former pro athletes at Bo Jackson’s celebrity golf tournament on behalf of the Give Me a Chance Foundation held in Bolingbrook, Ill. Baldwin and Jackson were teammates on the White Sox.
Jackson’s charity is dedicated to enhancing the lives of Chicago’s youth through educational and athletic programs.
“What he does for the City of Chicago is awesome,” Baldwin says.
Home for the Loons is Midland, Mich. The entire Baldwin family plans to make a trip there sometime during July.
Another Former Patriot becomes a Pro
When Josh Haley finished up an outstanding baseball career at UNC-Pembroke, Pinecrest coach Jeff Hewitt got his former all-state centerfielder to help him coach the Patriot summer league team.
Hewitt knew he might not be around for long. Haley batted .391 in the spring as the Braves’ centerfielder and lead-off hitter. His career average was .351. Even though he wasn’t selected in the major league draft, he was likely to obtain a pro contract as a free agent.
“We wanted Josh for our summer team because of what he knows about the game, his work ethic and because of the leader he was in the outfield and in the dugout,” Hewitt said after Tuesday’s summer game.
“Those are some of the things we want to rub off on our players so we snatched him up.
“But then again, we were hoping for the best on the two tryouts he went to in Burlington (NC) and Michigan.”
Last week, Haley was signed to a contract by the Southern Illinois Miners of the independent Frontier League. His goal is to play well enough to have a major league team purchase his contract. One of the Miners had his contact sold to the Kansas City Royals just before his arrival in Marion, Ill.
Reached by phone before a game in Joliet, Ill. on Friday, Haley talked about his pro debut last Saturday at home against Gateway. Playing centerfield, he went 0-for- 3, but contributed to a 6-1 Miner victory by scoring a run and driving one in with an infield ground out, He was surprised not to be nervous in spite of playing before a much larger crowd than he was used to in college.
“Even though I’m still searching for my first hit, it was good to get some little things out of the way like scoring my first run, getting my first RBI and my first putout. It felt great. I was more excited than nervous.”
Haley got the first hit monkey off his back Friday evening in a 7-4 victory over Joliet. He started in left field and led off the game with a single. He walked in the second inning and stole second base, finishing 1-for- 3 in a game called after six innings because of rain. The post season honors keep pouring in from Haley’s college career. The most recent was selection to the North Carolina Sports Information Association All-State College Division Baseball team.
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