One of college baseball’s most versatile individuals, Chip Baker has been the longtime right-hand man of Mike Martin. For the past three-plus decades, Baker has served as a Seminole assistant coach, camp instructor, and director of operations. Here’s a sneak peek at Jack Warren’s latest interview with Baker, which covers family ties in high school, working with the game’s best coaches, what it’s like to run baseball operations at a program like Florida State and yes, even his experience driving the bus.
Upbringing at North Rowan (NC) High School
“My father was a high school basketball coach and director of athletics at the same high school my brother and I went to. My mother taught physical education and health and my grandmother was head of the cafeteria, so I go to school and my whole family was there, it was unique. My dad gave me the master key in eighth grade, so I could go lift weights, play basketball, hit off the tee, and if he ever needed me to do something, I had a key! It was a thrill to be there with my family. It really was.”
Experience as a college baseball player at High Point University and beginning as a coach
“I was part of four teams that won conference championships. My junior year we went to the [NAIA] College World Series; it was the first time we’d ever stayed in a hotel. We lost in the championship game 3-2. I became a coach after my senior year in college; I worked camps and that’s where I got my foundation of teaching- Jim Morris, Rod Delmonico, Turtle Thomas, Jack Leggett- I was able to learn from all those coaches.”
Work ethic, multitasking and operations
“Mike Martin called Chuck Hartman, who I played for at HPU, and asked him about me, and Chuck pumped me up. He said ‘Chip will work and you don’t have to tell him to work.’
“I tell young coaches all the time, when you show up to work, start working, start doing something. If I have to tell you how to do it, I might as well do it myself. I like the coaches that just grab something and go.
“I came to FSU and I coached a summer league team and worked camps. We had a grounds crew that served the entire campus, so we didn’t have a rake, we didn’t have a drag, those guys had their own. So if it was a weekend we were playing a summer league game, I had to drag that field with the hose- I had someone hold one end and I would drag it back and forth across the infield so it would be smooth for the game.
“I coached for 18 years and I did ‘planes, trains and hotels.’ Where it really got busy was the postseason. I’m the guy doing travel as well and you gotta do ‘what if.’ I kept two cards in my hat- one was the lineup of the other team and the other was if we win- we’re doing this this and this and if we don’t win – I never say if we lost – we do this this and this.”
7:17, not 7:15
“People will remember if you tell them you’ll be there at 7:17 instead of 7:15. Normally I show up early and I’ll let the restaurant know when the team is en route. It saves the restaurant staff and our team a lot of time!”
“My backpack in May is even bigger than it is before then because I have camp in there- I’ve got camp staff I’m working with trying to get them qualified through the background check process. I have my notes for the trip we’re on and the players know don’t mess with my backpack- because if I lose my backpack, they don’t eat!”
Driving the bus…
“We flew out to the west coast to play Stanford and we had a bus going to go downtown to the San Francisco Giants’ stadium, one of our former players worked for had set up a tour for us. I was talking to the bus driver and he pointed up and said ‘there’s Candlestick Park.’ Next thing I know he’d fallen over in his seat.”
“I thought for half a second he was reaching to get a map, but that bus started veering. I grabbed the wheel and got it straight and I could tell the driver was having a medical issue. I stood up and got Coach Martin to get [the driver’s] foot off the gas. Fortunately I had worked large machinery and driven a bus before; I was able to get it straight and we got it to the side of the road. We were very fortunate… you don’t think, you just react.”
The “spiked baseball”
“The spike baseball was started by Spanky McFarland at Georgia Tech. He took a hammer and drove a nail into a baseball for every shutout, and he’d write the date on it.”
“Florida State [football] played in the Meadowlands in 1993 we had a goal line stand and held Kansas from scoring. [Defensive Coordinator] Mickey Andrews is a lifelong friend, so I got a nail into a baseball and put the date on it and gave it to him as a congratulations. The next week, they shut someone else out and I didn’t even think about it until one of the football players asked, ‘Coach where’s our baseball?’”
Check out topcoachpodcast.com for the entire interview