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Pitcher Caleb Lee detours back to Baker

Story by Chad Mullen, Writer

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Junior Caleb Lee has taken an interesting journey with Baker University’s baseball team, but after two years away, he is now back in Baldwin City as a starting pitcher. Starting his college career as a Wildcat, he decided to transfer to compete at a bigger school in his native state of Oklahoma.

“My sophomore year I played pretty well, so I decided to go to the University of Central Oklahoma and see what I could do,” Lee said.

In his sophomore campaign of 2013, Lee led the Wildcats with an ERA of 2.43, with four complete games and 36 strikeouts. Most notably, he threw six scoreless innings against the University of Kansas.

Upon his arrival at UCO, he realized he would need time off due to injury.

“I found out I was in the early stages of Tommy John in my elbow, so I took a medical redshirt,” Lee said. “After that, I decided to come back to Baker to play football, and I didn’t plan on playing baseball at all until (head coach Ryan Goodwin) called me and tried to convince me to play, and after about a month of playing catch and testing my elbow I decided to play again.”

Lee was actually originally recruited to play football at Baker, and it took a meeting with Phil Hannon, the head baseball coach at the time, to get on the team.

“I wasn’t even planning on going to college unless I received an athletic scholarship of some sort, but luckily (offensive coordinator Miguel Regalado) saw me play just one game in high school and offered me one,” Lee said. “Luckily I was also able to convince coach Hannon to let me on the baseball team.”

Still being a two-sport athlete, Lee wasn’t allowed an offseason to rest his elbow and had questions about being able to return to the mound.

“As I took the time off it sort of just healed itself. That’s why I didn’t know if I would play baseball coming back, because I thought that it would still bother me,” Lee said. “So I went out and played some catch and it didn’t bother me, that’s when I decided I would play.”

In order to protect his long-term health, on top of his extended time away from the game, Lee takes a little longer to recover from his starts.

“I’m only able to pitch every six or seven days, instead of every four or five days,” Lee said.

Still, he believes that he has improved his game since his return.

”This year I think I’ve developed a few more pitches,” he said. “I’m throwing a slider now, and my curve has gotten better, so that’s definitely a plus. I’m the oldest guy on the team, so I have a lot of experience, and I would say I bring a level of leadership to the team because of that.”

He has a 4-3 record in his seven starts in 2016, throwing two complete games and 27 strikeouts. Thanks to a recent winning streak, the Wildcats are currently 13-11 in the Heart of America Athletic Conference, and Lee is confident in the team’s chances of making the conference tournament.

“The first half of the season we had some rough spots, and you look back at some of the losses and think we could have done this or that differently and pulled out a couple more wins,” he said. “But as of right now we’re in a decent situation, and we’re comfortable going into the second half of conference play.”

He is most impressed with how well the team gets along, and how this year’s senior class has progressed since his last year with the team, when the Wildcats posted a 6-39 record.

“I’m only familiar with the senior class, as they were coming up my sophomore year, but they’ve been playing together for almost four years now and they show a lot of leadership,” he said. “And I think that’s definitely going to contribute to having success at the end of the year.”

Both the football and baseball teams seem to have a special camaraderie, according to Lee.

“Being around both groups of guys, the feeling is very similar,” Lee said. “We all get along really well and spend a lot of time together, and we never do anything crazy or get in trouble, which is a positive.”

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