June 7, 2023

Long time coming 

Former TCU star Luken Baker makes his major league debut.

Luken Baker was a star for three seasons at TCU. Now, he's playing for the St. Louis Cardinals. Photo by Michael Clements

June 7, 2023

Long time coming 

Former TCU star Luken Baker makes his major league debut.

A baseball journey that started at TCU and included five stops in four seasons in the minor leagues has finally reached the ultimate destination for Luken Baker.

It has also brought him home, or very close to it.

The former Horned Frogs star made his Major League Baseball debut June 5 with the St. Louis Cardinals, collecting the first two hits of his career in a game at Pittsburgh. Within the span of 48 surreal hours, the journey brought him within minutes of Lupton Stadium on June 5 for a three-game series against the Texas Rangers.

“I’m really excited about it,” Baker said at Globe Life Field. “It feels great to be here. I feel like I’m ready.”

Luken Baker helped TCU reach the College World Series in 2016 and homered against Texas Tech. Photo by Michael Clements

He received the call of every player’s dreams June 3 while his minor-league team, the Triple A Memphis Redbirds, were playing in Omaha, Nebraska. He went from Omaha to Pittsburgh that night, debuted in a day game around 14 hours later, and hopped on the Cardinals’ team charter to Texas.

His wife and parents made it to Pittsburgh for his debut, and he had several family members and friends in attendance June 6 against the Rangers.

“I didn’t really have a whole lot time to think about much,” said Baker, who lives in Frisco, Texas. “It was, get into Pittsburgh late that night before, wake up early and play a baseball game.” 

Baker was promoted after connecting for 18 home runs, the most in minor-league baseball this season, and batting .313. He made some offseason adjustments after batting only .228 last season.

“It was more just approach changes and maybe intent changes, sticking to plans and swinging at the right pitches,” Baker said. “It’s all worked out well. It’s a lot easier than you would think, but you have to be diligent. I have to make a choice every day to do everything I do with the fullest intent to get a little bit better every day. All of those days add up.”

St. Louis manager Oliver Marmol said that Baker, a first baseman, created an opportunity at designated hitter with his early-season performance.

Luken Baker said that he works out in the offseason at Lupton Stadium. Photo by Michael Clements

“He put together a couple of good months that were impressive,” Marmol said. “He was driving the baseball against righties and lefties. He’s earned the opportunity.”

The Cardinals selected Baker in the second round of the 2018 MLB Draft after he hit 28 home runs over three seasons with TCU. His last two seasons were shortened by injuries, including surgery on his left elbow after a freak play in 2017 and a broken left leg in 2018.

The Frogs went to the College World Series in 2016 and 2017 and are bidding to do so again this season. They will play host to Indiana State in the Super Regionals on June 9-11, and the winner of the best-of-3 series advances to the CWS.

Baker isn’t far from the TCU program. He does much of his offseason training at TCU, which welcomes back former players who are still playing professionally. 

“They do a great job,” he said.