Recent Loudon High School graduate Konar Baker is preparing for his freshman season at Fayetteville (N.C.) Tech Community College.
Although the Redskins were forced to shut down the season prematurely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Baker received an offer from FTCC and committed March 21.
The younger brother of former LHS standout Cameron Baker, he is one of four LHS baseball seniors that signed a letter of intent this year. Teammates Bailey Jolley and Jacob Mallory signed with Johnson University, and Cade Smith will play for Maryville College.
“It’s always really been a dream of mine to play any sport at the next level,” Baker said. “It was really weird because going into my junior year I didn’t really think I’d have the chance because I didn’t have a lot of playing time. My senior year came around, and Coach (Billy) Gaskins and Coach (Jason) Lambert talked to me and said I have the chance to play and if I keep grinding and give 100 percent effort no matter what, then I’ll be able to play. The season got canceled, and that really took a toll because a lot of teams weren’t really showing any interest in me. It was just kind of a weird experience.”
Baker’s journey in high school had its share of ups and downs.
“As a young player coming into our program, Konar actually did not make our team as a freshman and utilized his whole freshman year to improve and work at his game,” Jason Lambert, LHS head baseball coach, said. “He came in as a sophomore astronomically more improved than he was a year earlier and easily was selected as a member of our program. That work ethic and drive never faltered throughout his career at Loudon High School. He was an extremely hard worker in the weight room, very coachable on the mound, which is another reason why his experience as a pitcher for us just continued to grow year in and year out.”
Baker played several positions for the Redskins, primarily as a pitcher. In his junior season, Baker played a role in closing out games, helping Loudon clinch the District 5-2A and Region 3-2A championships and advance to the Class 2A state tournament for the first time since 2015.
“That was a surreal experience, even if I didn’t have a huge impact on it,” he said. “It was still just a great experience just going there and seeing all the other teams that we knew we could beat and all the teams that we could beat at one place. Just having the opportunity to play and bring back a championship to Loudon was just a surreal experience.”
Baker is projected to be a utility player for Fayetteville Tech and could see time on the mound.
“I foresee Konar going in and getting an opportunity to show himself as a two-way player, potentially getting an opportunity to play a little third base, outfield and some at pitcher,” Lambert said. “He’s going to have to learn quickly that he’s going to need to commit to one or the other probably as a primary focus in order for him to improve and get to where he needs to be to compete for Fayetteville (Tech) Community College.”
Baker is enrolled at FTCC and has been working out with the team. He said his time at Loudon prepared him for the transition.
“While I was a kid, I moved around so moving wasn’t really a big deal,” Baker said. “Everybody here’s really nice and they help out when you need them to. It’s more like a family aspect, and everybody here is trying to get to the next level and trying to help everybody get to that next level. The workouts, some of them have been pretty hard but most of them, Coach Lambert really gave us that college experience with workouts and practices at Loudon. It’s really helped because it hasn’t really changed a whole lot.”
He hopes to earn a starting position by spring.
“They brought me in as a utility player, but I’m trying to focus on becoming a pitcher because that’s where I can see myself moving onto a four-year school or onto the next level somewhere else,” he said.
“I think I can earn a starting spot as long as I keep working, that’s what Coach Gaskins said. He said if I keep working, nothing’s going to stop me where I need to be ultimately.”