Baxter finds new role after injury

Bobby Baxter, Connor Villanueva and Matt Mendosa all contributed in different ways for the Mustangs this season. Photo by Robert Eliason.

Bobby Baxter reflects on the play that ended his senior season and high school career and knows what should’ve been done. 

“When I look back on it, I should’ve called it right away,” said Baxter, referring to a popup play that ended in a collision with a teammate in a March 29 game against Monterey, resulting in Baxter suffering a torn ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) and MCL (medial collateral ligament). “I got under it and called it kind of late.”

It was a significant injury—Baxter has to wait until June 28 to get surgery because the MCL has to heal itself before surgery can be performed on the ACL—and he faces a 9 to 12 month recovery period. That means he might have to take a gray shirt season wherever he plays community college baseball, but even through this adversity, Baxter has managed to keep a positive outlook and remained resolute that he will come back better than ever.

“I don’t see any point about moping about it now,” he said. “There Is nothing I can do now but to stay positive and try to help others.”

And that’s exactly what Baxter is doing. Despite being sidelined, Baxter has managed to make a contribution. He still travels with the team and is in the dugout rooting and cheering his teammates to do well. Baxter, a pitcher and shortstop, encourages the younger players on the squad with sage advice and is involved in the game to the point where sometimes he’ll see things that others in the game don’t. Gilroy High co-coach Cole Mauter said Baxter has been nothing but a tremendous example and influence, so much so he calls Baxter “coach” as a term of endearment. 

“Instead of mailing it in, Bobby has done a great job working with younger players and having different conversations with each of them,” Mauter said. “He has the ability to still be impactful even though he can’t be on the field. It’s really commendable and special, and it speaks to his character, his parents and the type of kid he is.”

Instead of letting an injury ruin his season, Baxter has marched forward and embraced his new role as a player/coach. 

“Obviously I was bummed out because it’s my senior year and I can’t finish out the season, but I wanted to help in any way I could,” he said. “It’s kind of kept my mind off of what happened and not being able to play.”

Baxter said he recently told a teammate who was in a slump to keep his weight on his back foot, and that slight adjustment “seemed like it really helped him.” He’s also given tips to pitchers on their mechanics and having the proper mindset. 

“As a starter you want to go as deep in the game as possible, so you can’t go all out right out of the gate and expect to last,” he said. “You start off at 75 percent and work your way up.”

It’s been a tough season from a won-loss standpoint for the Mustangs, who have to find positives beyond the scoreboard. Mauter said the team has still played with a fighting spirit and he’s proud of the boys for playing the game the right way. Sophomore Matt Mendosa has had a terrific season, and Connor Villanueva has also been a force. Even though Baxter faces a long recovery period, Mauter said a college team would be fortunate to have a player like Baxter in its program. 

“He’s an awesome young man and will be a real gift for a future college program who wants to take a flyer on a kid who will be coming off an injury,” Mauter said. 

Gilroy played its final game of the season Tuesday, wrapping up the 2019 campaign. Mauter said the impact Baxter made will not be forgotten. 

“I’ll forever remember Bobby Baxter and the impact he had on me and our group as a whole,” Mauter said.