Baldwin’s arm on display Tuesday
His fastball is one of a kind.
More accurately, Steve Baldwin’s heater is one of about 2,800.
In January, at a pro/college baseball showcase in Denver that attracted about 200 players, Bob Nash, a Grand Junction resident and scout associated with the Seattle Mariners, said Baldwin’s fastball was clocked at 90 mph.
Nash said he’s studied all of the high school pitchers in the state, estimating there are 2,800, and only Baldwin has been clocked that high.
Dozens of teenagers throughout this season have taken hacks at a Baldwin fastball. The 6-foot-1, 180-pound senior is 3-0 this season with a 1.84 earned-run average, and has chalked up 31 strikeouts in 26 1/3 innings for the Tigers, 8-3 overall and 2-2 in the Southwestern League — one game behind Fruita Monument and Durango for the league lead.
The Tigers play Central at 4 this afternoon at Canyon View Park.
As he talks during a recent practice at Grand Junction, Baldwin often digs a cleat into the dirt, carving a batter’s box-like divot. He talks of his future, one made possible by his right arm.
“I’d eventually like to play pro baseball,” Baldwin says. “I just have to maintain a solid work ethic.”
With shaggy brown locks and a gritty, country-boy face, Baldwin seems fit for minor-league trials. And he looks ahead, considering pro baseball. The vision is vivid; the movie plays live — nightly stays in rundown hotels, bus rides connecting one rural town to another, meal-ticket spenders with millionaire hopes.
Baldwin has seen it — or rather, heard it — through his older brother, Geoff, drafted in the 10th round of the 2009 June MLB amateur draft by the Kansas City Royals. He had signed to play ball at the University of Nebraska, but decided to go pro after the draft.
After two seasons in the minors, he decided he preferred school. A torn labrum wasn’t discovered until the end.
Now attending Montana State University in Bozeman, Mont., Geoff Baldwin is focused on education. And tying thousands of flies. As a kid, he read books about Ted Williams.
“That was his thing,” Geoff Baldwin said. “He tied flies in the offseason.”
The season is indeed off for Geoff Baldwin. He gave up baseball last spring, months after an MRI revealed a torn labrum. Baldwin played with the torn cartilage in his shoulder socket for much of his second season with the Rookie League Burlington (N.C.) Royals. He didn’t know the extent of the injury.
“I have no regret,” Geoff Baldwin said. “Before I signed a pro contract, my mom was adamant that no matter what kind of money I was signing for, I’d get my college paid for.”
But it’s different with Steve Baldwin.
Geoff was recruited for his power hitting.
Steve, possibly more suited than his brother for life on the road, is noted for his power pitching, although he’s hitting .480 in 25 at bats.
“If you ask anyone, Steve and I are completely different people,” Geoff Baldwin said. “If anything, I wish for the fact that no matter what happens with him in baseball, and I say it over and over, that no matter what happens in the game, it is a game, and he’ll eventually take that uniform off a final time.”
But where can that arm take Steve Baldwin? One appendage, a potential cash magnet, gave birth to a mighty dream.
And scouts are noticing more about Baldwin than pitch No. 1.
“What I noticed most was his confidence,” Nash said. “From this point today to a year ago — huge improvement. He has huge presence and confidence, the ability to project that he really knows what he is doing.”
Scouts refer to this kind of player as having a “high ceiling.” But even the Taj Mahal was not built in a week.
So it seems with Baldwin.
“He has a high ceiling,” Tigers coach Kyle Rush said. “He’s so young. His arm’s in great shape. He’s going to start as a strong (junior college) kid.”
Once again, Baldwin sees his brother’s script — the wild, roving life on the road. And it sounds fun.
“I’m always up for new experiences,” Steve Baldwin said. “Meeting new people.”
Steve Baldwin, once standing in Geoff’s shadow, is making a name for himself in baseball.
“He seems to finally be coming into his own as a young adult,” Nash said. “He’s no longer on his brother’s path.”