Freeburg's Keegan Baxmeyer keeps slugging through knee injury
Freeburg’s Keegan Baxmeyer thought twice about playing football in the fall so that he could concentrate his training on earning a college baseball scholarship.
But loyalty to his senior classmates and potential for a special season in the rugged Cahokia Conference brought the speedy Baxmeyer back for his final season in the Midgets’ backfield. By week 2 he was out, having blown out his left knee in a lopsided loss in Carlyle.
“I completely tore my ACL and I tore my MCL as well,” he said. “It was tough especially because I was contemplating not playing football to be sure I was healthy for baseball. I had surgery on Oct. 1 and, what’s normally about six to nine months of rehab, I had done in five.
“I worked hard to get back to baseball.”
.471 Baxmeyer’s batting average through 12 games
5extra base hits out of 16 hits total
17RBIs are tied with three others in the St. Louis region
Because of the balky knee, Baxmeyer has thus far been limited to designated hitter duties. He still wears a cumbersome brace that limits his ability to squat into a catcher’s stance and has slowed him down a few steps though his coach, Drew Gericke, says Baxmeyer still runs faster than most of his teammates.
Unaffected, though, is Baxmeyer’s bat.
He’s hitting .471 after 12 games with a slugging percentage of .765. Five of his 16 hits have been for extra bases, including a pair of doubles, a triple and two home runs. Freeburg’s cleanup hitter also has 17 runs batted in, which through Wednesday, was tied for most in the St. Louis region.
In three games last week, Baxmeyer went 8-for-11 with a home run, six RBI and five runs scored. His performance helped the Midgets (10-2) to two wins and earned Baxmeyer BND Player of the Week honors.
Keegan is a hard worker, he’s smart and he’s going to stay out of trouble. He’s such an athlete, I don’t know why any coach wouldn’t want to talk to him.
Drew Gericke, Freeburg head baseball coach
“The good thing about his rehab is that he was cleared really early to start hitting,” Gericke said. “There’s no running or no squatting, but the doctor released him pretty early to start hitting and he’s got a cage at his house. His dad and him go outside and hit every day.
“You can tell by the work he puts in the kind of hitter he is. Because it’s his left knee, he’s not pivoting on his back leg, so that’s a big plus.”
Baxmeyer said it took him some time to acclimate to competitive pitching, but that may be as much a function of the time of year as the injury. He’s also had to adjust his approach to hitting from the No. 4 spot in the order.
“I’ve learned to be more patient in the fourth spot,” he said. “They are going to throw me a lot more curve balls and throwing me away. But I feel good hitting to the opposite field.”
The next step in Baxmeyer’s recovery is a return to a position on the field. If it was his decision alone, he’d be back among the starting eight. But his doctors and coaches say that decision remains day-to-day.
I had surgery on Oct. 1 and, what’s normally about six to nine months of rehab, I had done in five. I worked hard to get back to baseball.
Keegan Baxmeyer, Freeburg senior designated hitter on the injury in week 2 of the football season
Baxmeyer, in the meantime, has given his commitment to play next season at Southwestern Illinois College. Both he and Gericke are disappointed that his combination of speed and power didn’t draw any other attention from college coaches, they are confident that a year or two under SWIC coach Neil Fiala will get him to the next level.
“I honestly just think a lot of coaches are making a big mistake by not talking to him or even talking to me about it,” Gericke said. “Keegan is a hard worker, he’s smart and he’s going to stay out of trouble. He’s such an athlete, I don’t know why any coach wouldn’t want to talk to him.”