Drake Baldwin, wearing a Missouri State baseball uniform, holds a certificate honoring him as a member of the Missouri Valley Conference All-Tournament team
Drake Baldwin collected plenty of accolades in his time at Missouri State, including a spot on the 2022 Missouri Valley Conference All-Tournament Team. Baldwin is in his second season in the Atlanta Braves' organization. (Photo by Missouri State University)

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Former Missouri State Bear Drake Baldwin is on his way to the major leagues, but his college coach, Keith Guttin, has bigger goals for the catcher.

“Drake could be president, with Jake Burger as vice president,” Guttin said.

Guttin speaking of a White House run is nothing new to Baldwin.

“He always said that, but I don’t think I’d ever want to be president,” Baldwin said.

He is from the swing state of Wisconsin, but he’s more concerned with the state of his swing.


Making moves through the pro ranks

For now, Baldwin’s playing a different kind of hardball: He’s catching with the Mississippi Braves, the Double-A affiliate of the Atlanta Braves, who drafted him in the third round of the MLB Draft in 2022.

The Double-A Braves are slated to move from Pearl, Mississippi to Columbus, Georgia, in 2025. Baldwin said he hasn’t seen a drop-off in fan support. Moving the team closer to Atlanta doesn’t seem to bother him.

“It will be kind of cool having all the minor league teams in the same state as the big league team,” he said.

Baldwin hasn’t had much time to unpack anywhere. After his 2022 college season, he played a few games in rookie ball with the Braves of North Port, Florida, then spent the rest of the season at High-A with the “masterfully” named Augusta (Georgia) GreenJackets. Thanks to the new minor league collective bargaining agreement, his team provides housing.

In 2023, Baldwin began in Augusta, moved to the Mississippi Braves, then got to spend a few games in Triple-A with the Gwinnett Stripers, who are named after striped bass.

Drake Baldwin, wearing a Missouri State baseball uniform and catcher's gear, talks to the home plate umpire during a break in a game at Hammons Field in Springfield, Missouri.
Drake Baldwin chats with an umpire between innings of a game at Hammons Field. Baldwin was drafted in the third round of the 2022 MLB Draft by Atlanta, making him the highest-drafted catcher in Missouri State University history. (Photo by Missouri State University)

“It was very valuable just to see,” Baldwin said. “I mean, everyone on that team played in the big leagues at one time or another, so, just to be able to see what they do on a day-to-day basis and how they prepare for games was huge.”

He also got close to the majors — for the playoffs, no less.

“They had some players at the alternate site in case some of their big league guys get hurt,” Baldwin said. “Last year we got to scrimmage the big league team at Truist Field. It was a really cool experience playing against the starting nine for the Atlanta Braves.”

Baldwin was named the catcher of the Braves’ organization all-star team in 2023, which encompasses every level of minor league ball.

“It’s pretty rewarding knowing how much work I’ve put into it,” he said. “Even back into college days, all the stuff that (Guttin) and Joey Hawkins were teaching me got me to a spot where I could keep on developing here.”

Baldwin caught a break in spring training

Baldwin was invited to major league spring training as a non-roster invitee in the past two seasons. He enjoyed spending time with the players, even if the Braves are set with catchers — for now.

“There are so many outside factors and we never really know what the front office is thinking,” Baldwin said. “(Catchers) Travis D’Arnaud and Sean Murphy are in the big leagues, and they’re great people. I wish nothing but the best for them.”

But Baldwin will be ready to play.

“Catcher’s a tough position,” Baldwin said. “You’re a foul tip away here.”

In fact, Murphy, 35, is currently on the injured list with an oblique strain.

Baldwin may end up in a trade, too. Scouts from other clubs attend every Double-A game, he said, and, as much as he likes the Braves, he wants to play in the Show.

“There’s so much stuff out of my control,” Baldwin said. “If I happen to get traded, like, I have no say in that. A lot of people say (the minors) is like you’re playing for 30 teams.”

Studying up to stay prepared for anything

Drake Baldwin, wearing a Missouri State baseball uniform, swings the bat during a game at Hammons Field.
Drake Baldwin was named the catcher of the Atlanta Braves’ organization all-star team last year, which encompasses every level of minor league ball. (Photo by Missouri State University)

In the meantime, he’s playing in Double-A where games can start at 11 a.m. to accommodate school field trips.

“It’s kind of hectic these days,” Baldwin said.

Baldwin is still working on his daily routine in Mississippi. Besides conditioning, stretching, weight training, drills, practice and games, he spends time studying scouting reports.

It seems gratitude is also part of his mental preparation.

“I just kind of get a realistic expectation of where I’m at and realize that this is what I dreamed of doing,” he said. “There are millions of people who would love to be in the spot I am, even if it feels like a grind.”

Baldwin was drafted after his junior year of college, but he’s been taking one online class at a time since turning pro.

He just wrapped up a course called “Principles of Project Management” and intends to graduate with a business degree from Missouri State in the spring of 2025.

Skating away from his other favorite sport

Baldwin had to skate away from his other favorite sport of hockey, where he played center and left wing, and was named all-state twice.

“I tried to be a little more of a skill guy in the back, and then keep possession of the puck. Well, that was my goal.”

Speaking of, Baldwin led all Wisconsin high school players in goals with 43 in his junior season.

“I’m really happy about playing professional baseball,” he said, “I mean, I love both of them, so I wish I could still play hockey, but I’m fine not playing with the position I’m in now.”

He keeps an eye on college hockey, and watches some of his friends play.

“I’ve never really gotten into an NHL team,” Baldwin said, “But maybe one of my buddies will make it and I’ll be able to just follow that team.”

Growing up, Baldwin skated and played hockey on backyard rinks, ponds and indoor rinks. But those days are gone — for a while.

“I can skate a little bit in the offseason, but nothing intense,” he said. “Because if I get hurt doing that, it’s really not a good look.”

As a former hockey player, does he ever block home plate so he can get the feeling of getting checked into the boards?


“I hate to get hit,” he said emphatically. “Oh, I’ll block the plate, but just to save a run. But no, I don’t miss getting hit, I’ll say that.”

Missouri State got to Baldwin before he could seriously contemplate skating for a college hockey team.

“I would have loved to play hockey, but the recruiting schedule is completely different,” Baldwin said. “It’s a lot later in your high school career.”

Instead, after his sophomore year he verbally committed to play baseball with the Bears.

Drake Baldwin found a home at Missouri State

Baldwin grew up in Madison, Wisconsin, nearly 600 miles away from Springfield, but he caught MSU coaches’ attention at a club tournament in Indiana. Baldwin visited Springfield twice to make sure Missouri State University was the right fit.

“They were pulling out all the stops for me, and I knew that was them proving that they really, really wanted me,” Baldwin said.

Guttin said the effort he and has staff poured into recruiting Baldwin was intentional.

“The dean of the business school met with Drake and his mom in the summer,” Guttin said. “That was very impressive.”

The Baldwins were impressed, too.

“With my mom being a teacher it was definitely a big selling point,” Baldwin said. “She had a big say in this decision, as well.”

Baldwin’s mother, Dr. Bridgette Baldwin, has been a teacher in Wisconsin for 28 years.

Spencer Nivens, wearing a Missouri State baseball uniform, waits for his turn to bat during a game at Hammons Field.
Spencer Nivens was teammates with Drake Baldwin at Missouri State. He said Baldwin was an “awesome leader” who showed him the right way to go about his business. (Photo by Missouri State University)

Drake also had a chance to immediately compete for a starting job since Bears catcher Drew Millas was expected to turn pro right before Baldwin arrived. Indeed, Millas was drafted in the seventh round by Oakland in 2019 and later traded to Washington.

“Baseball is way more fun when you’re able to play,” Baldwin said. “It just makes it a lot more engaging.”

Baldwin’s family visited as often as they could and found he was in good hands.

“My mom and my grandparents would come down quite a bit, but feeling like I was at home at Missouri State was huge to them,” Baldwin said.

He also made his teammates feel welcome, said former Bears outfielder Spencer Nivens, now in the Kansas City Royals organization.

“He was an awesome leader, and he taught me so many things,” Nivens said. “He showed me the right way to go about my business.”

Baldwin also loved playing for Guttin, who retired after the 2024 season.

“He’s awesome. He was going to do everything he could to make you the best person you can be,” Baldwin said.

‘I don’t really want to be anywhere else'

Baldwin just turned 23 and he’s figuring out how to deal with slumps.

“If you are 0-4 it’s not like you have two days to think about it like in college,” he said. “You play the next day, so you have to have a clear mind to be able to put your best at-bats together.”

He tries to keep his perspective.

“With baseball, there’s good weeks, there’s bad weeks; there’s good months, bad months; but I’ve never thought about quitting,” Baldwin said.

Baldwin may be presidential material, but he’s good with his career path. Besides, he’s a long way from the minimum candidate age of 35.

Missouri State baseball coach Keith Guttin
Missouri State baseball coach Keith Guttin said Drake Baldwin will be successful in whatever he does. (Photo by Missouri State University)

“Baseball is kind of what I do,” Baldwin said. “I love doing it, so I don’t really want to be anywhere else.”

If that ever changes, he’ll still have Guttin’s support.

“Whatever that guy does, he’s going to be successful,” Guttin said. “I can tell you that.”

Mary Ellen Chiles

Mary Ellen Chiles is a freelance photographer and writer based in the Ozarks. She graduated from Missouri State University with a bachelor's in creative writing and a master's in English, Creative Nonfiction Writing. More by Mary Ellen Chiles