From almost losing part of his left leg in October to setting a national strikeout record this spring,
is experiencing a truly unforgettable senior year at tiny Carlisle (Price, Texas)
During the middle of his third full year as a starting quarterback, Baker took a hard helmet hit to the calf muscle near his left knee.
He told MaxPreps, "I finished the game. I have a high pain tolerance. I iced it and went to sleep. But the next morning it was killing me, so I drove myself to the hospital from the field house and met my mom. They had to fly me to Tyler and I had surgery. Four days later I had another surgery."
The standout two-sport athlete learned that he suffered from compartment syndrome, caused by excessive pressure building up inside an enclosed space, and that produced severe swelling in his leg. The pressure impedes the flow of blood and can result in amputation or death.
Baker conceded, "I thought I was going to lose my foot for a little bit. I thought about baseball the whole time. It was definitely God - definitely the prayers. My surgeon said he never saw anything like that. They had 48 hours before they would have had to amputate."
Carlisle baseball coach Wesley Colley never will forget seeing the pictures that his young star carries on his cell phone.
He recalled, "It really was heart-stopping. The incision - they had to leave it (his leg) open for two or three days to let the swelling go down. It looked like a cadaver."
Baker attended the next football game in a wheelchair, his career ended by the freak injury. Nevertheless, thanks to a big junior year he holds single-season school records for rushing yards (1,766) and touchdowns (24), passing yards (1,222), touchdown passes (14) and completions (58).
Even though he was passionate about football, Baker realized that from then on his future was with baseball. He was able to start working out earlier than usual - especially in the weight room - for baseball and having been pronounced 100 percent recovered he has had a dream season this spring.
"His rehab and dedication have been just incredible," Colley praised. "He had a pretty severe injury. It's pretty miraculous. He has a scar below his left knee to the ankle, about 9 or 10 inches long."
Credit his older brother, Clay, a personal trainer, with a big rehab boost. Clay also is the team's strength coach.
With one regular-season game left, the 6-foot-3, 195-pound right-hander has led the Indians to a perfect 20-0 record and the No. 1 Class A ranking in Texas. He has compiled a 10-0 record and not yielded an earned run in 52 2/3 innings. He has allowed just 17 hits, 18 walks and struck out 117.
During one amazing three-game streak he struck out 22 consecutive batters to tie a national record, which was set by Jim Peterson of Sonora (Calif.), in 1973.
The memorable streak started on a Friday when he fanned the final three batters during an 8-1 victory over Harleton (Texas). The next Friday he struck out all 15 batters in a 10-0, five-inning perfect game against Gary (Texas). The following Tuesday he struck out the first four against Union Hill (Texas) before walking a batter on a 3-2 count. Then he followed with three more strikeouts.
Looking back, Baker related, "It was a chance for me. I just kept thinking about it. I was really nervous. A kid on the team told me if I got four I would have the record. (The walk) made me mad. It (tying the record) is definitely awesome. I never (before) had thought about it."
The rangy teenager throws a very effective curve and slider. His fastball is around the 88-90 mph range, but he has hit 92 and 93 a couple times. This year he has added a changeup which still is a work in progress.
A center fielder when not pitching, Baker is no slouch with his bat, either. He hits in the No. 3 slot and currently is batting an impressive .431 with 43 RBIs and 33 runs. He has used his speed (4.6 seconds for 40 yards) to steal 24 bases.
Baker was destined to be an athlete, because his father, Rocky, has been his football coach and he also is the athletic director at Carlisle, a school of 180 students in grades 9-12.
Describing the town of Price, Rocky Baker says, "We only have one blinker light and one country store."
Gunner had one particular highlight as a youngster. While living in nearby Henderson, he played in the Dixie League World Series in Auburn, Ala.
"It was awesome," he said. "I got to meet Bo Jackson. It was one of the hardest handshakes I've ever had."
As a freshman, he suddenly was thrust into the role of No. 1 pitcher for the Carlisle varsity. He also started at either shortstop or second base and hit No. 2 in the lineup.
"There was a lot of pressure," he admitted. "I really looked at it as a job."
Pressure or not, he responded with a spectacular debut. He batted a lofty .600, drove in 47 runs, scored 50 runs and stole 12 bases. On the mound he compiled a perfect 12-0 record with a 1.10 ERA. He struck out 96, walked 40 and allowed 41 hits in 63 2/3 innings.
As a sophomore, he moved to the outfield due to a surplus of infielders. He threw his first career no-hitter during the second round of the state playoffs and finished with a .559 batting average, drove in 53 runs and stole 40 bases. His pitching record was 13-3 with a 0.96 ERA and 160 strikeouts in 87 2/3 innings.
His outstanding junior year produced a .523 batting average and a 14-1 pitching record. His ERA was a microscopic 0.25.
He exploded as a slugger that year, belting two grand slams during a rout of Leverett's Chapel (Texas). On that occasion he drove in 13 runs, which is tied for No. 5 in national history for a single game. The record is 17.
"I really didn't do anything different," Baker pointed out. "I just got the right pitch at the right time."
He also threw a no-hitter in the state playoffs for the second year in a row.
Asked about his superb tourney performances, Baker replied, "I guess I know how important it is and I guess I just focus more."
Carrying a 95.6 scholastic average, Baker plans to further his education at Hill Junior College in Hillsboro, Texas.
"I feel that where I have signed, they will help me for the future," he said. "They will help me with my velocity."
Hill coach Chris Rateike is just what the doctor ordered because he explained, "I might be one of the few (junior college) coaches who develop kids. Our offseason program is the one used by the Seattle Mariners. We have seen guys gain 20 pounds from August to January.
"I'm going to let him be a two-way guy (pitcher and every-day player), because he is really athletic. He's a big-time guy. He's really good mentally, a great competitor and throws strikes."
Rateike said he never wavered after Baker was injured.
He admitted, "He was very lucky. I saw him as a junior and this kid was a no-brainer. He was still hobbling around when I signed him. I took a little bit of a risk. I don't think there's any more problems. He's pretty much all healed up."
Rateike concedes that he could lose Baker to a Division I college or to the Major League Baseball draft.
However, concerning Baker's future, he projects, "If he keeps developing the way he has, he does have an opportunity to play some pro ball. He just needs to get a little stronger."
Still grateful for his son's amazing recovery, Rocky Baker said, "It was 50-50 whether he came out of surgery with his foot. If you don't believe in miracles, then I've got one I can lay on you."