TRAVERSE CITY — The coronavirus didn’t cost Kurt Baehr a season.
The Traverse City Central standout pitcher wasn’t going to see the mound this season anyway, waiting for the pandemic to end to get Tommy John surgery on his pitching elbow.
He’s on the short list to have surgery after restrictions on surgeries are lifted.
Baehr committed to Lawrence Tech University, which saw enough from the right-hander’s junior season to offer him.
“He fits the benchmarks of players we are looking for,” Blue Devils manager Stan Eldridge said. “With medicine nowadays and the advances they’ve made, we’re looking to a full recovery and a bright future with him.”
Baehr tops out at 87 mph and sits in the mid-80s, throwing throws two- and four-seam fastballs, a curve and change-up.
While the opportunity to continue his baseball career was enticing, academics was a priority for Baehr.
“I known since junior year I wanted to be an engineer,” Baehr said, “ever since physics class with Mr. Forton.”
He also looked at Taylor University (Indiana) and a bunch of community colleges — Muskegon, Lansing, Grand Rapids and Kellogg.
“None of them could keep up with Lawrence Tech,” said Baehr, who plans to focus on robotics as he looks to rebound from surgery and earn a spot in Lawrence Tech’s starting rotation.
He’ll redshirt next year as he rehabs from surgery.
“It will have all played out by then,” Baehr said.
Baehr had an earned-run average under 1.00 until allowing a run in a short relief appearance late in the season, ending the season with a 1.30 ERA, 8-2 record and 37 strikeouts in the 2019 season, beating rival Traverse City West.
“Lawrence Tech has a ridiculously good engineering program,” Baehr said. “I have no doubts I’ll come out of there happy.”
Baehr adds to a Traverse City pipeline for the Blue Devils baseball program.
LTU had four TC players on its 2019-20 roster, including Central alums David Klug and Matt Baker and TC West’s Jared Roth and Sam DeKuiper.
Lawrence Tech had 13 seniors on this year’s team. The NAIA allowed spring seniors the opportunity for another season if they wish to do so. Eldridge said seven have already graduated on time and don’t plan on playing next season. That includes Klug, Baker and Roth.
Klug finished his virus-shortened Blue Devils career with a 1.82 earned-run average, a 3-2 record, two saves, 29 strikeouts in 24.2 innings and didn’t allow a home run. Roth hit .253 with two home runs, 17 RBI, 14 walks and four doubles in 83 at-bats, while Baker posted a 2-0 record in seven games (three starts). DeKuiper hit .233 with five RBIs, seven hits and three runs in 11 games as a freshman outfielder.
“We’ve had good luck with Traverse City kids,” said Eldridge, whose team was 10-7 when the season was canceled because of the virus and were 33-17 the previous season.
Traverse City St. Francis’ Josh Bradfield enrolled at LTU for the second semester and made the team as a walk-on, giving the Blue Devils representation from the three biggest TC school in recent years.