Grand Junction’s Baldwin headed to Nebraska to play ball with the big boys
Geoff Baldwin is just beginning to reap what he has sowed.
He’s developed from a good athlete as a freshman with a lot of potential to a senior starting to lock in on his future.
Baldwin, a senior at Grand Junction High School, has grown into a top-notch baseball player who has already committed to the University of Nebraska.
“When he came in as a freshman he was good, and we could tell he had power,” Grand Junction baseball coach Kyle Rush said. “But he has spent his summers with these showcase teams and gotten better. He has developed into a pretty good-sized man.”
Baldwin will be heading to a program that has been at the top of the Big 12 since current head coach Mike Anderson took over.
“I love the coaches at Nebraska and it was a great fit,” Baldwin said. “My dad and I talked about the three schools we wanted to hear from, Pepperdine, University of Arizona and Nebraska. Two out of the three made really good offers and Nebraska was a good choice for me.”
Some might think Baldwin made his college choice too soon, that he should have waited to see if schools would get into a bidding war. He didn’t even take all of his official visits.
That’s just not Baldwin.
“I wanted to get this over with before the school year started,” Baldwin said. “You think the recruiting period is fun, but it’s really not. It is cool that it is happening, but there is a lot of stress that goes along with it, so I just wanted to get it done and out of the way and move on.
“I could have gone to visits all over the place, USC, Duke, Vanderbilt, but I didn’t see the point. They have to go out and get their guys and how I looked at it was, the guys that are offering you first, those are your top schools.”
But it is not as though colleges saw the talented Baldwin as an underclassmen and gave him the keys to the campus.
Baldwin has put in the work to put himself in the situation he is in, committed to a top Division I program over the summer and able to enjoy his senior year.
“I have worked hard and gotten in my hours in the cage,” said Baldwin, a three-time all-Southwestern League selection. “I bet four years ago everyone thought I was going to be a pitcher, but I always knew that I wanted to be a hitter and I worked at it hard.”
As a sophomore and junior, Baldwin emerged as a solid hitter, but during this past summer and fall he had the opportunity to test his abilities against some of the best players in the country. After playing with a traveling team out of Denver during the first half of the summer, Baldwin tried out for and made the Area Codes games.
The Area Codes games are put on by Major League Baseball and Nike and showcase the top talent from all over the country over four days in Southern California. Baldwin played for the Cincinnati Reds, a team made up of players from the southwest and Hawaii.
“Area Codes was great and it helped me to get some pro interest,” Baldwin said. “The biggest thing for me is, I always felt if I worked hard, I could play with all these kids. Going out there I was a little intimidated, but I realized these kids aren’t that much greater and I was able to play and hold my own.”
Baldwin played first base during the tournament and impressed those in attendance.
Andrew Knepper blogged about the event for ESPN.com, writing about Baldwin, “This power hitting, left swinging first baseman has shown a solid swing all week, hitting a few balls to the deep power alleys and his defensive play is what is separating him from other first basemen.”
At the Area Codes tryout in Denver, Baldwin met Jeff Scholzen, the area scouting supervisor of the Four Corners region for the Los Angeles Angels. Scholzen invited Baldwin to play on the Angels’ Rocky Mountain Elite scout team, based out of Las Vegas. The club played eight weekends of baseball against a variety of opponents during the fall. The elite scout team took on mostly other scout teams, club teams and junior colleges around the area.
Baldwin had the opportunity to test himself against teams that have reached the Alpine Bank Junior College World Series, Central Arizona College and College of Southern Nevada.
“It was great, the level of play was amazing. It was nice to get out there and play along with some of the best kids around,” Baldwin said. “We played all of the top jucos around here and it was great to see all that good pitching.”
Playing for the team gave Baldwin the chance to see what life is going to be like when he leaves the Grand Valley.
“It was a big growing-up period for me,” Baldwin said. “I got to drive to Vegas by myself. There were some long days of travel, but it was cool and it was a lot of fun.”
The travel didn’t affect Baldwin’s play. He batted fourth for the Angels and ended up leading the team in RBI and walks.
“Geoff is big and physical with raw power that is intriguing. The fact he is left-handed doesn’t hurt, either,” Scholzen said. “He had some ups and downs, but that is natural in seeing some of the better players around the West. He learned a lot and grew as a player and I think he has a real bright future.”
Scholzen gave Baldwin the ultimate compliment, saying he has a good chance to play professional baseball someday.
“He is definitely an impact Division I player,” Scholzen said. “He has pro potential, whether out of high school or college.”
Baldwin said he’s excited about the prospect of being drafted out of high school but hasn’t put too much thought into it yet.
“If that does happen, I will definitely look into it, but whatever happens I am excited for it,” Baldwin said.
“Whether that is go to college or get drafted high enough, it will be a fun ride.”
It’s only October and Baldwin is yet to begin his senior season of baseball. In fact, he hasn’t started his senior season of basketball. Baldwin made the all-SWL basketball team last season, and despite the bright future in baseball, he’s putting down the bat and glove and picking up the shorts and sneakers for three months.
Baldwin considered forgoing his senior year of basketball.
“I will be honest, I have been back and forth about quitting,” Baldwin said. “But talking to scouts and talking to coaches, the ones I really respected said, ‘It’s your senior year, go have fun. You are never going to get to play basketball again, so go do it.’
“Plus, I love Dutch (Johnson, Grand Junction’s basketball coach). He has always been there for me and is one of my favorite coaches.”
Basketball serves as a much-needed break from baseball.
Baldwin began the high school baseball season in March and has been playing eight straight months, essentially a full major league season. As much as Baldwin loves the game, he needs some time off.
“I need a break. I have been playing for a long time and it has been a blast, but even in the majors they take a break,” Baldwin said. “You can’t do it all year. I will still go hit every day at the cage, but basketball helps me balance it out.”
When March rolls around, Baldwin won’t take his final high school baseball season for granted.
His future might be bright, but he’s not willing to pass up his present.
“I knew where I wanted to go and I went for it, and now I can go and be focused on this year,” Baldwin said. “ We have a lot of good, young guys coming back. It should be a good year and I think we have a chance to make a run at this thing.”