Ladies, you will meet many a man who declares himself a baller.
At best, that’s a reference to his favorite Future song. At worst, he’s only vaguely aware the word is supposed to be equated with achievement and success. That it implies a certain nurtured skill or finesse.
If the world is divided into two types of people — those for whom the title “baller” applies loosely, and those for whom it describes literally — career minor-league pitcher and outfielder Ben Baker falls squarely into the latter.
The title applies less now since Baker suffered a pitching injury — shoulder damage calling for Tommy John surgery. Baker has been benched since September, putting his five-year baseball career on hold.
Aside from being a baller on the mend, Baker is also somewhat newly single. The 26-year-old exited a six-year relationship shortly before his shoulder surgery, so in a couple ways he’s in between gigs.
He’s looking to be picked up by a minor-league team but not as sure about his readiness for a new steady girlfriend.
Asked what he’s in the market for, he walks out a tired bromide.
“I’m just looking to meet people and see if anything’s there,” Baker says, with a slight Southern lilt courtesy of his mom.
There are stereotypes about athletes, a few of them even positive: fitness, unvarnished eagerness, a measured amount of extroversion. They might hail from a small town. Mission, Kan., we’ll call it. They might have studied sports science and business administration at, say, Rockhurst University.
OK, at this point we’re talking about Baker.
Picture it. You’re on one of Baker’s standard first dates: dinner, drinks and see whether someone gets the feels.
He tells you how much he likes his Plaza neighborhood house. How much the minor-league shuffle bounced him around — Arizona, the District of Columbia, New Jersey, “just every which way,” he says.
You learn he’s got a decent shot of being picked up by a major-league club — he says half his team graduated to a major-league team last year. And the way he talks about it, you can tell it’s important to him.
Just a few minutes after meeting him, you can tell he’s one of those people who, to borrow a phrase, has never met a stranger.
Time out from your dream date for a little background.
Baker interviewed for “Datelines” seated at a bar on his way to his current hustle, giving baseball lessons. At a gap in the interview, introductions were exchanged with a pair of women seated nearby. The friendly pitcher had an easy rapport with the strangers.
There’s a manner about some friendly people that’s pushy and tracks loosely with salesmanship, people trying to sell you their personality. That’s not Baker. His affability is like a campfire or sunlight, freely throwing off warmth with no specific mandate to have it accepted or recognized.
“The only time I get nervous is public speaking,” he tells the women in response to whether being queried by a reporter is stressful.
“I hate it!” he said with gamely inflection.
“I pitch in front of 10,000 people, and I’m fine, but six people in front of me, and I gotta give a speech — I’m like, stutterin’, movin’ around and dancin’,” Baker says.
The women laugh. He laughs, easing into light conversation.
So rest assured, Baker will not be giving any speeches on your first date.
Back to your date.
Baker’s doing a lot of holding doors for you and pulling the chair out, et al. He’s a self-described gentleman. He also got that from his mom. Dad helped, too.
If the Kansas City Royals are in town, he’s got free admission to a game for two courtesy of him being a minor-league pitcher. He’s a baller like that.
He’ll find out May 1 whether he’s playing this coming season or if he’s, in his words, “getting a big-boy job” instead.
But don’t keep him waiting.
If you are friendly, outgoing and just surveying the market like Baker is, he invites your solicitations. Find Mr. Baker’s social media presence at an Internet near you.
Datelines highlights young KC singles. Are you single, fabulous and comfortable with attention?
Brag on yourself at firstname.lastname@example.org.