Jeff Baker’s 13-hour drive from Detroit to his home in Centreville, Va. Friday night got a lot better after he learned that shortly after designating him for assignment, the Tigers had traded him to the Braves.
“When I found out I was coming here, I was really excited,” said Baker, a former Rockie and Cub. “(This is) a team that’s obviously leading the wild card and on top of that, a class organization.”
Baker knew in order to be a part of a playoff roster he would have to be picked up by midnight on Friday. And it would be hard finding a job for teams out of contention who’d prefer to audition younger players.
“There was a little bit of concern, but at the same time you just put faith in what you’ve done throughout your career and hope somebody has some interest in you,” Baker said. “Fortunately enough it was a team like Atlanta.”
The 31-year-old utility player joined his new team on little sleep after arriving home at 6:30 a.m. on Saturday. Holiday weekend traffic and construction had made the typical eight-hour drive 13 hours. He took a noon flight to Atlanta to arrive in time for a 4:05 p.m. start Saturday and struck out on three pitches from Cliff Lee in a pinch-hit at-bat.
“The results weren’t exactly what you want, but it was good to get in there, get your feet wet and be ready to go,” Baker said.
Baker gives the Braves another right-handed bat off the bench. He can play all five positions in the field other than shortstop, center field and catcher. He came up as a third baseman before adding both corner outfield spots, second and first base to his repertoire.
The former Clemson Tiger said he dozed in front of the TV through most of their win over Auburn at the Chick-fil-A Kickoff game on Saturday night.
“I was getting text messages from a bunch of my buddies, and at one point I’m like ‘Just turn the phone off,’” said Baker, who was drafted in the fourth round by the Rockies in 2002. “I was dozing in and out watching the game, but it was good to see the boys get a win.”