Baseball: Serena coach Chad Baker steps down after 26 seasons

Huskers’ skipper posted 337 wins and six Little Ten Conference championships

Serena's Chad Baker has decided to step down as the Huskers' baseball coach after 26 seasons and 337 victories.

Serena’s Chad Baker has led the Huskers’ baseball program for the past 26 seasons but has decided that this past spring was his last filling out lineups and giving signals from the third-base coaching box.

“I’ve said since Connor started high school back eight or nine years ago that I was going to see him and Carson through their high school careers and then walk away,” Baker said of his two sons, the latter having just finished up his senior season. “That time has really gone by very fast. I had a good feeling Carson would decide to play at the next level and that my daughter, Katie, would still be playing college softball and maybe basketball somewhere.

“No regrets or second thoughts. It was the right time.”

Baker, who has now taken over the athletic director role from the retiring Dean DeRango, grabbed the reins in 1999 and over his tenure amassed an overall record of 337-319-2 while his squads won six Little Ten Conference championships and at least that many runners-up. The lone goal Baker said he and his teams were unable to reach was a regional title despite some very good teams and playing well towards the end of the season.

“We just couldn’t quite get one of those and it [stinks],” Baker said of not winning a regional title. “I feel we’ve had very competitive teams throughout the years, and to be honest, most of them have peaked at the right time, postseason time. We played in a number of regional titles games and played well in those games, but just were never able to get over the hump.

“My second season we lost to Sandwich and would have had to play Yorkville for the regional championship if we’d won. Then next few seasons we would always run into a really good Coal City or Seneca team. Then in the past 10 or so years it’s always seemed to be matchups with tough teams from Marquette or Somonauk or Newark. That [regional championship] goal just never worked out, but I’m very proud of the fact we’ve always had competitive teams and the kids have always gave it all they had.”

Baker is a 1994 Serena graduate and played four years of baseball at Rockford University, formally Rockford College. He was hired as a math teacher in the summer of 1998 and also the baseball coach position at the same time.

Serena baseball coach Chad Baker talks strategy at the mound in a 2023 game against Ottawa at King Field.

“I had absolutely no coaching experience at all but figured it was a great opportunity that if I didn’t take it might not come around again. I was learning on the fly,” Baker said. “It was a little strange in the fact that I was fresh out of college now coaching kids that weren’t that much older than I was. It was almost being like a big brother and their coach.

“I can truly say I’ve had nothing but great support from the parents to the administration since I started. I can’t thank them all enough for that. They made my job, especially early on, much easier. I’d also like to thank my parents, my wife Kelly and the kids, they all have always been there for me.”

Baker said there was also time earlier in his career when the thought of stepping away from coaching baseball came up.

“After the 2011 season, Kelly and I talked about how one of us was going to have to step away from coaching for a while with the kids all really being involved in sports and activities,” Baker said of his spouse, who was Serena softball coach at the time. “She was coming off a fourth-place finish at state in 2010 and had another good season in 2011 but she said she was happy stepping away on that high note. I can say at the time, not that I wanted to step away, but I would or could have if the situation had been different.”

Like at most small schools, the balance for multi-sport student athletes can be tough on coaches, as well. But Baker said he feels there are plus factors in sharing the time with other sports.

“It’s tough, but also, I feel, a blessing that at a small school like Serena that many of the kids play all of the other sports,” Baker said. “As a baseball coach you’d like them to continue playing baseball in some form during the summer, but there is also stuff going on with soccer and basketball during that time as well. I think the fact that most of them play together in other sports helps build a kinship that has more often than not carried over into baseball.”

A fan of many different sports, Baker said baseball has been in his DNA since as long as he can remember.

“The game of baseball is just something my entire family has just loved,” Baker said. “As a family we all follow the White Sox, and I grew up watching them and it’s my team. I enjoy watching other sports as well, but none of them more than baseball. I love watching the interactions, thinking about the strategy and just seeing how certain situations play out.

“It’s just a special game to me.”

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