Norwood, Mass., nestled neatly 20 miles south of Boston, is a baseball town.
So when he was 8 year old, Bob Baxter’s immediate future — forged in part by the coaches of the Little League diamond — was never in doubt.
“That’s the kind of energy and effort that I remember my coaches having,” Baxter, 45, said, recalling the 45-minute summer commutes his coaches would make to and from games, oftentimes after work.
“I can’t really remember whether they taught me how to throw a 2-seamer or a 4-seam fastball. They probably didn’t. But I do remember all the time and dedication that they put in to teach us the game.”
Teaching the game is now something Baxter does — and does well.
Only in his third coaching season in Menlo-Atherton Little League, Baxter received the Positive Coaching Alliance’s Double-Goal Coach award, a nationwide honor bestowed to 25 coaches who “strive to win while pursuing the more important goal of teaching life lessons through sport.”
“It’s really gratifying,” said Baxter, who coaches the Lutticken’s major team. “I think they appreciate people taking the time to do good stuff with our kids. I’m certainly not the only person in this town to do that.”
But not many in town can boast his baseball past.
A seven-year pitching veteran of the minor leagues, Baxter was drafted in 1990 in the 12th round by the Montreal Expos, winning Single-A and AAA titles in 1991 and 1995, the former of which was under former Giants player and eventual manager Felipe Alou.
Neither tall nor overpowering, the lefty relied on consistency and location, keeping batters off-balance while keeping himself resilient.
“I wish I had thrown 98 miles an hour, but I didn’t. So I had to figure something else out,” Baxter said. “Coming out of an Ivy League college and not being a first- or second-round pick I was always the guy who in a lot of ways had to prove myself every season.”
He did prove himself at Harvard his freshman year, where he met his future bride, a native of Menlo Park, where the two live today. By his junior year, the New York Yankees came calling, drafting him in the 35th round. Baxter declined, to the delight of his mother, a Boston Red Sox fan.
“I’m not sure she would have let me back in the house if I would’ve signed with them,” he said.
Yielding his big league dreams to reality, Baxter took up a banking career in Santa Clara after being released in 1997. He dropped baseball and a Single-A pitching coaching offer for time with his three kids. But his kids are older now.
“It doesn’t mean I won’t,” Baxter said of coaching beyond Little League. “I may think about it down the road.”