Bruce Baker likes to fish, so it was no surprise when the Cloquet American Legion coach said he would be on Lake Vermilion this coming weekend when not coaching baseball games up in Ely.

“I’ll load up the boat with as many kids that want to go,” said Baker, 48, now in his third season coaching the Cloquet boys of summer.

In fact, this summer, Cloquet has a pair of pitchers, Carlton’s Kaden Crane and Ryan Gray, as the two multi-sport athletes added to the team when Carlton couldn’t field a squad. And boy, have they added.

“They’ve been great,” said Baker of the talented tandem. “Just a big help for us.”

Baker again has a big lineup, rostering a full crew of 18 boys this summer, including recent graduates Nick Baker, Noah Niemi and Gavin Rasmussen — all three of whom are longtime veterans of the diamond. Jake Huhta and Elijah Halli have experience as well, not to mention the return of 2018 Cloquet graduate and current Minnesota Duluth baseball player Tim Pokornowski.

Pokornowski, who also plays football at Division II UMD, has five home runs in just six games this summer.

“That’s a good stat,” Baker said of the powerful Pokornowski. “He’s just an all-around good athlete — just an all-around good person.”

Cloquet third baseman Noah Niemi prepares to swing during a third inning at bat. Niemi would go on to hit a two RBI double for the Lumberjacks. (Jamey Malcomb/Pine Journal)
Cloquet third baseman Noah Niemi prepares to swing during a third inning at bat. Niemi would go on to hit a two RBI double for the Lumberjacks. (Jamey Malcomb/Pine Journal)

Speaking of good things, one of Baker’s twin sons, Jon, a Division I commit to South Dakota State, recently completed Tommy John surgery in mid-June after snapping his ulnar collateral ligament in his right arm last spring. His surgery was done by Dr. Daniel Buss, who also repairs current and past Minnesota Twins.

“It went well,” Baker said. “His recovery has already been better than planned.”

Speaking of plans, Cloquet will host the Division I district tournament July 24-27. For Cloquet — a squad saturated with multi-sport athletes always on the go — it will only add to several more league tilts and an always-good time at the mid-summer Ely tournament July 12-14.

Cloquet, sporting just a 3-4 record in seven games while battling a wet summer and several injuries, was at West Duluth on Wednesday, July 10, during press time.

“The offense has been strong and scoring enough to win, and if we tighten up our defense, we should be OK,” said Baker, also assisted by Cloquet High School baseball coach Rick Norrgard. “They’re all great kids who come to the ballpark ready to play. Legion ball is about having fun, and for most of these older guys, they’re just getting another chance to play.”

And, well, this weekend at least, another chance to fish.

“That’s the goal,” said Baker of their free time when not on the field in Ely. “We’ll hit Vermilion on Saturday.”