The Cubs’ beloved mental skills coach is headed to Pittsburgh.
The Pirates announced Tuesday that the team has hired John Baker as their director of coaching and player development.
The Cubs demonstrated how much they valued Baker’s role this year, giving the mental skills coach Tier 1 clearance, which was reserved for players and essential personnel. The club anticipated how many mental hurtles the players would face while MLB staged a season in the middle of a pandemic. They made sure the players had full access to Baker.
“I often laughed about my title as mental skills coach with our MLB team,” Baker wrote in a letter to the Cubs baseball community, which he posted to Twitter on Tuesday. “I should have been called mental skills student because I learned so much from the players, coaches, and front office in Chicago. There is nothing more mindful than Javier Baez fully in the moment at short stop, nobody more mentally prepared than Yu Darvish, Jon Lester and Kyle Hendricks, nobody more passionate than Willson Contreras, more professional than Jason Heyward and Craig Kimbrel, or more deserving of a “C” on their chest than Anthony Rizzo.”
Baker has been a Cubs fan favorite since his playing days. The former catcher spent just one season with the Cubs, appearing in 68 games in 2014. In July of that year, he infamously became the first Cubs position player to win a game as a pitcher. Lasting 6 hours and 27 minutes, the game was also the longest in franchise history.
“The LF Bleachers acted in the most Chicagoan way imaginable,” Baker recounted in the letter. “They turned the events of that day, July 29, 2014, into John Baker Day, a fan operated charity event involving beers, Malort, and laughs.”
That season ended up being Baker’s last in the big leagues. He re-joined the Cubs organization a year later, this time as a baseball operations assistant.
“I was so thankful, and I am still grateful,” Baker wrote. “Thank you.”