Tooele senior Madi Baker knew that Salt Lake Community College was the place for her to continue her softball career long before she put pen to paper to make it official last week.
Now, she is excited to pull on the Bruins’ blue-and-gold uniform and take her talents to the next level come 2021 after signing her national Letter-of-Intent in a small ceremony at Tooele High School. The friends and family who joined her for her official signing were a big part of why she picked SLCC, as was her familiarity with the Bruins’ coach.
Coach Cyndee Bennett, who is the head coach at SLCC, has been my accelerated coach for the past three years,” Baker said. “She offered me a full-ride scholarship when I was a freshman. I have loved having her as my coach and look forward to playing for her on the college level!
“Another reason SLCC is a great fit, and a bonus, is that I am going to be close enough for my family and friends to come and watch me play,” Baker added.
It is no small wonder that Bennett wanted Baker to join the Bruins so early in her career. As a freshman in 2018, Baker hit .455 for Tooele High, scoring 33 runs with nine doubles, four home runs and 13 walks to go with 17 RBIs. She boasted a .566 on-base percentage and .772 slugging percentage for an OPS of 1.339, and she also stole seven bases while occupying a regular spot in the lineup for a team that went 26-3-1.
“Playing for THS softball has been an amazing experience,” Baker said. “I’ve had the opportunity to play for great coaches and with some of my best friends. I was taking hitting lessons from Coach Bug (Marissa Lowry), Coach Kelsey (Pratt) and Coach Brit (Gonzalez) long before high school. I’ve looked up to all three for as long as I can remember. Having them be my high school coaches along with Kelly Russell has been awesome.”
Baker was every bit as good as a sophomore, once again playing a key role for the Buffs’ 2019 Class 4A state championship team. She hit .410 and scored 30 runs and led the team in RBIs (31), walks (17) and on-base percentage (.529). She was second on the team in doubles (10), home runs (seven), slugging percentage (.783) and OPS (1.312), and fourth in stolen bases (10).
“Winning the state championship my sophomore year was something everyone had worked so hard for,” Baker said. “We were disappointed COVID took away the chance for us to 3-peat. We are still planning on winning the state championship this year.”
However, Baker’s softball success hit a major bump in the road during the summer of 2019. During a game with her club team, Baker was hit in the foot by a pitch, breaking multiple bones. Eventually, she had to have surgery and had to endure months of physical therapy and wearing a cast, leaving her unable to play softball for seven months. In addition, her junior season was cancelled by the COVID-19 pandemic. Now fully healed, she looks forward to helping the Buffs pursue another Class 4A state championship this coming spring.
“It has been difficult to try and get back to the level I want and expect to be at,” Baker said. “I am grateful for the confidence my coaches have had in me and the encouragement they have given me as I’ve worked hard to overcome this physical and mental hardship.”
Baker plans on pursuing her associate’s degree at SLCC before moving on to a four-year university to finish her bachelor’s degree. She credited her friends and family for helping her reach this point — particularly her sisters, who have been her teammates, as well as her father, Chris.
“My biggest influences were my parents, especially my dad, who taught me the game of softball and was one of my first coaches and was always willing to help me work on my own,” she said. “He would take me to the field and hit me hundreds of ground balls and to the cage to hit.”
With that kind of support from her friends and family, she looks forward to the chance to take her game to the next level.
“I have been playing softball my whole life and have dreamed about playing in college,” Baker said. “It means a lot to me to have this opportunity because I have worked so hard and it really is a dream come true. I can’t wait to be a Bruin!”