LOS ANGELES – Luken Baker is no stranger to hard work, but he’s fully aware that, sometimes, everyone needs that extra little nudge to get back on track.
So when he saw one of the kids at the Gatorade Play It Forward Clinic slacking off during workouts at Soboroff Field Tuesday afternoon, Baker jogged over and began doing the drills with him.
“I just saw that he was getting tired; we’ve all been there,” said Baker, the Gatorade Baseball Player of the Year. “I just love working with kids; I’ve done things like this a few times before and it’s really cool to be able to give back and help them out.”
Baker was one of nine Gatorade Athlete of the Year finalists who ran more than 120 kids through stations at the clinic. NBA champion Draymond Green, of the Golden State Warriors, and two-time WNBA MVP Candace Parker, of the Los Angeles Sparks, led the drills.
Gatorade will name the Male and Female Athlete of the Year winners at tonight’s awards banquet.
“I’ve had my fair share of these camps when I was younger,” said Kyler Murray, the Football Player of the Year. “Just to see a kid that looks up to you and to see that smile on their faces is a good feeling. It’s fun.”
It also helped to relieve any lingering stress that accompanies the uncertainty of tonight’s big award.
“Of course you have some nerves, that’s to be expected,” said Murray, now freshman quarterback at Texas A&M. “But just being out here and working with these kids makes you take your mind off of it all for a few hours. We’re all competitors so, of course, we all want to win the award. This was a nice break to not think about anything like that.”
Baker, a pitcher/first baseman who will play for TCU next season, has a different perspective; he said that merely being here enjoying the Gatorade Athlete of the Year festivities “is a win for me.”
“You’ve gotta remember, I wasn’t even thinking about winning Texas Player of the Year, let alone the National Player of the Year,” Luken said. “Now I’m here in L.A. and I’ve got a chance to win Athlete of the Year; man it’s unreal! I’m taking it all in and I’m gonna be happy if I win or if someone else wins. I don’t feel like I can lose either way.”
Follow Jason Jordan on Twitter: @JayJayUSATODAY