Fort Mill Times

Baldridge taken by New York in 33rd round

Fort Mill's Tommy Baldridge seen here playing for Coastal Carolina was taken in the 33 round during last Friday's Major League Baseball draft.
Fort Mill's Tommy Baldridge seen here playing for Coastal Carolina was taken in the 33 round during last Friday's Major League Baseball draft.

There are some weekends that are hard to forget. For former Fort Mill High grad Tommy Baldridge, this was one of them.

Baldridge, who was drafted in the 33rd round of the Major League Baseball draft last Friday by the New York Yankees, helped guide his Coastal Carolina University baseball team to its best finish in school history.

For the past four years, Baldridge has been tearing up the Big South Conference at the plate for Coastal Carolina and had a career .359 average entering last weekend's NCAA Super Regional against the University of North Carolina.

But success hasn't come easy for the 2007 Big South Tournament MVP, nor has it always been satisfying enough for him. After having his best statistical year in college, his junior year, Baldridge went undrafted despite hitting .383 with 13 home runs and 58 RBIs in 63 games and his team was knocked out of the NCAA regional playoffs by Clemson.

Baldridge was determined then to improve himself and help his team improve.

"I think we can do more," he said. "I'm not satisfied. I would like to go out and get as far as we can."

But his senior year was tougher than he planned after a trip to the beach with his family. Named as a second team preseason All-American, Baldridge was playing with his little brother on the beach last August and stepped in a hole, tearing the ACL in his left knee. He missed fall workouts with the team and even had to readjust his swing while he healed.

"I'm 100 percent now," he said. "It did cross my mind, [that] I might have to redshirt."

But after not getting drafted last year, Baldridge said he tried to focus more on helping his team get to the College World Series this season and not worry about his personal future in baseball. He still has a semester left in college.

"My main concern was last weekend," he said. "It's history for our program. What we have done has never been done before."

Coastal Carolina has won the past two Big South Championships and had 50-win seasons three of the past four years. Ranked in the top 25 nationally for most of the season, Coastal Carolina hasn't snuck up on people, but doesn't get the play in the media as other national programs such as North Carolina, Florida State, LSU, Miami or Arizona State.

"We have been pretty much out there for a while," Baldridge said. "We have a program that can play with some of the best teams in the country."

Despite his optimism heading into last weekend's series, Coastal Carolina was swept by North Carolina.

But despite all surrounding him last weekend, Baldridge still was able to take a phone call from the New York Yankees.

"They asked me when would I still be interested in being drafted," he said. "I said, 'Yes.' Once the suspense is gone, its nice to know I have a future in baseball."

Baldridge said being able to be drafted and play baseball as a profession, something he has been doing since he was 3-years-old, is a dream come true.

"Its what I had been working for all my life," he said. "Its tough being picked by a big organization. Its a long road and its going to be tough. But I am going to try and play as long as I can."