This year marks the 25th season of Harrisburg Senators’ baseball returning to City Island. To commemorate the anniversary and honor all of the ballplayers that have played here for the last 25 years, I’ll be posting interviews throughout the season with members of each of those past teams.
Today, we continue the series with Bob Baxter. The southpaw from Massachusetts equaled the team lead in wins during the 1994 season when he went 11-3. Baxter pitched in 277 games over his 8-year minor league career mostly with the Expos’ organization.
What are your fondest memories of playing here in Harrisburg?
Bob Baxter: Lots of great memories. I remember thinking how cool the stadium setting was the first time I drove onto City Island. I think there had been some flooding during the early spring before we got into town, so I remember people telling us how high the water had been. During the season on the days after I started, I used to do my running around the island—much better than just running back and forth along the warning track. I remember the great support from the booster club, hosting barbecues and giving us food before bus trips, and the extraordinary support from the front office, clubhouse staff, even the radio announcers. They really took care of us. I also remember many nights sitting in the stands holding the radar gun and listening to thousands of mayflies falling onto the metal bleachers.
In 1994, you went 11-3 while appearing in 40 games and starting 11. What do you remember about that 1994 squad under manager Dave Jauss that won the South Division but fell to Binghamton in the Eastern League championship?
BB: There were some high expectations going into the 1994 season because the 1993 team had been so good. We ended up having a really good year, with not as many star players as the ’93 team had, although we did have our share of players who had good major league careers (including Ugueth Urbina, Alberto Reyes, and Mark Grudzielanek). Grud had an incredible year—he hit everything in sight. The coaches were fantastic—Dave Jauss and the pitching coach Dave Tomlin treated us great, and Jauss is the smartest and most prepared and dedicated baseball guy I’ve ever been around.
In the playoffs that year, we came back against Bowie in the first round and moved on to play Binghamton for the championship. We were up 2 games to 1 and had a lead in the ninth inning of Game 4 in Binghamton, but the Mets his back-to-back home runs to beat us (I can still see one of those home runs hitting the scoreboard), and then they beat us in Game 5. One other interesting thing about that year was that the major league players went on strike, so minor league baseball was the only game in town for baseball fans. I remember there was a little extra attention paid to the minors at the end of the 1994 season.
You grew up in Massachusetts, played ball at Harvard, and competed in the Cape Cod League in 1989. What was the experience like as a member of the Wareham Gatemen for someone who grew up around that prestigious league?
BB: Playing in the Cape League is the ultimate for a college player. It’s a wood bat league, so it attracts great players and tons of scouts. Being an east coast player going to Harvard, I had no experience playing against guys from the big baseball conferences—I had only seen big-time college baseball on TV during the College World Series. The summer on the Cape gave me the confidence that I could play with the best players in the country. I lived with a host family in a house right on the coast, so on off days (we played about 5-6 days a week) I tried to learn how to windsurf and waterski (no success), and I learned the proper way to eat a lobster. I still feel a strong connection to Wareham, and to the late John Wylde who was the general manager of the Gatemen. I remember our manager that summer, Jim Fleming (he went on to be an Expos scout), telling us that we should enjoy every day we had in that league, because some day we’d look back on those days and wish we were there again. I still think about that every once in a while.
What have you been up to since your playing career ended?
BB: I stopped playing after the 1997 season, and I have been living in Menlo Park, CA ever since. I work at Silicon Valley Bank, a bank focused on technology companies. Outside of one or two alumni games back in my hometown of Norwood, MA, I have not done any pitching, although I’ve spent lots of time tossing wiffle balls in the yard. My wife Robbie and I have 3 kids, Molly (13), Annabel (10) and Nate (7). Robbie spent lots of time with me in Harrisburg that summer, sitting in the stands with the other wives, driving behind the bus on road trips, etc.—she probably has even better stories than I do about life in the minors
Thanks to Mr. Baxter for taking the time out of his schedule to answer our questions and be a part of the rich tradition of Senators baseball.