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Headed for Princeton

By AARON PAITICH, Special to the Star Tribune, 06/23/13, 12:12AM CDT


Dan Baer's baseball skills and academic smarts honed at St. Thomas Academy are bound for the Ivy League.

Dan Baer will return to play for Edina’s American Legion team this summer. Edina is the defending state champion.

The Baers are a hockey family, but youngest son Dan said he didn’t quite fit into that mold. The St. Thomas Academy center fielder is 6 feet 4 but weighs just 190 pounds.

His father, who played a couple of years of college hockey at Princeton, takes the blame.

“He sometimes apologizes to me for giving me skinny forearms,” Baer said. “Built for speed and not power. I’m not the most intimidating build. I’m tall, but not so thick.”

Translation: He would need to stray from the traditional family athletic path.

“I wasn’t built for hockey, but I found a home in baseball,” Baer said.

And a successful home at that. Baer was a three-year starter at St. Thomas Academy, where he displayed a well-rounded game. The righthanded throwing, lefthanded hitting star was a consistent performer for the Cadets during the school season. Last summer the Edina native helped his hometown American Legion team capture the state championship.

“I think that’s where he really stood out,” St. Thomas Academy coach Paul Weinberg said. “He had a tremendous summer.”

That summer led to options to play college baseball. His final options came down to two schools: the University of Minnesota, and his father’s alma mater, Princeton.

In the end, he decided to go the Ivy League route to New Jersey. Dan had been to Princeton a few times growing up, accompanying his parents to his father’s college reunions. While those visits may have had some influence on his decision, it was mostly based on his upbringing.

“My parents have raised me to take academics seriously,” Baer said. “For me, academics will always come before athletics. I thought I could get the best education at Princeton.”

Gophers coaches John Anderson and Rob Fornasiere impressed Baer so much during the recruiting process, they made his decision much more difficult than he originally thought. He took his official visit to Princeton this fall and stayed with Eden Prairie native and Tigers freshman Cameron Mingo.

It would have been nice for Baer to stay local so his family could see him play more, he said, “but I think they’re going to be happy to have an excuse to get out to Princeton a couple more times than they otherwise would have.”

Baer experienced a bout of mononucleosis, keeping him out of practice for a month. When the extended winter scrunched the schedule to 16 games in 18 days this past season, he never managed to be full strength. But it didn’t stop him from playing. He’s suiting up again for his hometown Legion teammates this summer to try and defend their crown.

He’ll also be working on the build his father continues to apologize for, and his college will help him. Princeton plans to fill out both his frame and the meat of their order. With a few key pieces graduating in the middle of the lineup, it is looking for Baer to turn into more of a power hitter and drive in some runs.

The future is bright, exciting — and a little nerve-racking.

“It’s definitely intimidating,” Baer said. “The East Coast is not the Midwest. I’ve learned ‘Minnesota Nice’ isn’t quite as prevalent out there. But it’s going to be good. I’m excited. I’m hoping my parents did a good job raising me, so I’m looking forward to all the challenges it has to offer, and all the good times, too.”

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