After five seasons with the Richmond Spiders baseball team, Robbie Baker, ’17, felt his dream of playing professionally slipping through his fingers when he was not picked in the 2018 Major League Baseball draft.

“I wasn’t sure I was going to keep playing baseball at that point,” Baker said.

Then, he got a phone call. The Boston Red Sox wanted him to join their organization.

“It was a huge relief,” Baker said. “I was so fortunate to get this opportunity.”

Baker now lives in Fort Myers, Fla., and pitches for the rookie league, the Gulf Coast Red Sox.

He starts each day at 5:30 a.m., joining his teammates for breakfast, and is on the field by 7 a.m. for practice.

“It’s tough down here, they really make you work hard,” Baker said, “but it’s a great experience. No matter how tough it is, I’m lucky to be surrounded by a lot of good baseball players.”

He says he learned how to commit to hard work and persevere through his time at the Robins School. 

“If you want to succeed in the classes in the business school, you have to do all the work and prepare yourself, just like on the team,” Baker said. “You have to plan out your day and work ahead. My time at the Robins School prepared me for everything we have to deal with on the team.”

He recalls international business as one of his favorite subjects, and credits Mitch Conover, associate professor of finance, for teaching him how to apply business skills to any profession.

“In order to do well there are a lot of steps that he made me put in,” Baker said. “His assignments made me apply myself to the subject matter to help me understand it better. And that’s similar to anything you do in life.”

Conover focuses his International Financial Management course on providing students an understanding of how currencies and global finance affect companies and investors. 

“Robbie was a hard worker and never missed class. I expect that his work ethic led to success in baseball as well,” Conover said.

Baker also credits much of his success to the support he received from his coaches at Richmond, particularly his pitching coach R.J. Thomas.

“He put in time with me, and made me feel comfortable working through my weaknesses,” Baker said. “That hard work and dedication made a huge difference for me, and the team.”

But Thomas credits much of the team’s success to Baker’s skill on and off the field.

“Robbie was great to coach, he brought a level of professionalism and experience to his practice sessions that you don’t always find in the college environment,” Thomas said.

Thomas began working with Baker during the 2017-18 season, and knew the signing process would be difficult for Robbie as a fifth-year senior.

“As a fifth-year, the time after the draft until you sign is tough. You don’t hear a lot from teams until they finalize their signing draft picks and current needs,” Thomas said. “The most challenging part is keeping the mindset that the journey isn’t over, and so we talked about alternate plans in case no one called.”

While scouting in Indianapolis about two weeks after the draft, Thomas got a phone call from the Red Sox scout about Baker. They began the signing process that same day.

“It’s crazy how quickly it happens after weeks of silence,” Thomas said. 

But, he knew after seeing Baker perform so well throughout the year that he would get signed.

“Robbie took ownership of his plan from the summer of 2017 when we first spoke about what the next 12 months would look like. He never let anything distract him from his goals,” Thomas said. “I was really impressed with the ownership he took of his work this year. As coaches, our goal is to provide our players a road map to success, but ultimately they have to not only follow the path but also adjust it as necessary to fit them as individuals. His work ethic and the pride he takes in every detail is key to him being both a successful person and player.”

Baker hopes following the examples of leadership and commitment set by his coaches and his professors will continue to serve him in his professional career. 

“There are a lot of steps that help you succeed in the long run, that’s one of the things you figure out, the more work you put in,” Baker said. 

Baker earned First Team All-Atlantic 10 Conference honors in his final season with the Spiders, and was named Second Team All-Region by the ABCA/Rawlings. He started 15 games on the weekend, leading the team in wins (9), innings pitched (84.2) and strikeouts (78). 

You can read more about his journey with the Richmond Spiders baseball team on their website.