2023 Northwest Herald Boys Lacrosse Player of the Year: Crystal Lake South’s Griffin Baker

Baker controlled both sides of field to lead Gators to best-ever record

Crystal Lake South's Griffin Baker was named the Northwest Herald's 2023 Boys Lacrosse Player of the Year.

Crystal Lake South’s Griffin Baker earned one of the highest achievements that any player who plays any sport could want: the respect of his peers.

Opposing coaches in the Fox Valley Conference marveled at how well Baker played long stick middie all season. The senior did it all for the Gators, leading the program to its best record at 11-8.

“He is able to do his thing when everyone knows what he’s going to do,” Huntley coach Dominic Saccomanno said. “He’s that good at it. I don’t think I’ve seen someone play the position of LSM the way he does in 20 years.”

Baker took over games on both sides of the field to help the Gators make history, putting up impressive statistics along the way. He scored 35 goals, tallied 47 assists and won 13 faceoffs and 124 ground balls, all impressive stats considering his position. He also was a physical threat to create turnovers and lead scoring chances.

Baker ended his career with more than 100 career goals and assists each while providing leadership as the program’s captain the past two seasons. He capped his senior year with his third All-FVC berth – there was no season in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic – and he’ll move to New York to play collegiate lacrosse at Wagner College.

“He is able to do his thing when everyone knows what he’s going to do. He’s that good at it. I don’t think I’ve seen someone play the position of LSM the way he does in 20 years.”

—  Dominic Saccomanno, Huntley boys lacrosse head coach

For his efforts, Baker has been named the 2023 Northwest Herald Boys Lacrosse Player of the Year as selected by the sports staff with input from area coaches.

“Unequivocally, it should be ... Baker,” Crystal Lake Central coach Leo Zimmerman said.

Sports writer Michal Dwojak had some questions for Baker about his life on and off the field, including how excited he is to play college lacrosse, his favorite part of lacrosse and something that most people don’t know about him.

What will you remember most from this past season?

The one memory that I’m going to remember for the rest of my life is when we raised enough money to watch Notre Dame and Ohio State play. It was great for our team because we got so much closer being on that bus for so long together. Just being to watch the now national champions play earlier in the year, that’s my favorite memory.

Which team in the FVC was the most challenging to face this season?

I feel like Huntley is the obvious answer, but I would say this year it’s Crystal Lake Central. They’re a huge rivalry game, and we came off a bad loss the game before, it felt like the wheels were off the tracks a little bit, and this was a huge win. We pieced everything together and played our best lacrosse of the season.

How are you going to remember your senior year and time at Crystal Lake South?

After every single game, we had a little tradition that we do on the bus after away games and that’s where we would sing “Sweet Caroline” on the bus, and that’s something I’m going to hold dear to me. That’s something that I’m going to remember that we did all three years that I played at South.

How excited are you to continue playing lacrosse at Wagner College?

I’m super pumped. It’s been a dream of mine when I started playing at 8 to play college lacrosse, and now that I’m 18 now it’s just two and a half months away until I’m on campus and starting to play. It’s a dream come true.

What is your favorite movie?

It would probably be the “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” movie. I just love “Ant-Man,” I thought the special effects were cool.

What is an accomplishment you’re most proud of?

I think it would be me being team captain the last two years and being almost at the helm of the team, being that vocal leader.

If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?

I would probably live in San Diego because I visited there once and it’s beautiful. I could learn how to surf and the weather is nice all year there.

What is something most people don’t know about you?

That my favorite animal is a penguin. I’ve liked them since they were little. Penguins and “Madagascar,” watching that on TV and seeing those movies, that’s probably why my favorite animal is a penguin.

Who is your biggest hero?

My biggest hero in my life would have to be my mom. That lady is nonstop working. She always puts others before herself. Growing up and seeing that hard work ethic, where every single second is working, I’m going to try to use that in my life. I don’t think I’ll be able to work as hard as that lady, but if I can even tap a little of that, then I’ll be good.

What is your favorite part about lacrosse?

My favorite part about lacrosse is just how different it is from every other sport. It combines a lot of different aspects of different sports, but my favorite part is just how fast-paced and up-tempo it is. Sometimes it can go back and forth, sometimes the pass slow down. I also just love the physical contact and nature of the sport. The cool thing about it is that it’s not like other sports where you have to play your whole life to become good. You can pick up a stick at any point in your life, and if you put the time and hard work into it you can develop to become a good player.

If there was one thing that you could change about lacrosse, what would it be?

I know it’s in the Premier Lacrosse League, but in high school and college, to add a two-point line into the game. It adds a cooler aspect into the sport, it rewards people for shooting farther away.

What is your favorite area restaurant?

I’m going to have to go with Jersey Mike’s because I work there all the time. My go-to order the No. 7, Turkey Provolone.