Forest City, located in rural southwest North Carolina, is the home of a mere 7,200 people. Yet, this small southern community has become a breeding ground of some of the top high school baseball players in the southeast. East Rutherford has won four of the last six class 2A state championships and finished with a 31-2 record in 2007.
The program has also produced a number of Tar Heels. Senior third baseman Chad Flack is undoubtedly the most familiar Cavalier to UNC fans, as his walk-off home run against Alabama sent the Tar Heels to the College World Series in 2006. Following Flack are UNC freshmen Zeke Blanton and Ryan Leach.
“We know first hand that we are getting a well-coached player,” said UNC head coach Mike Fox of signing East Rutherford players.
Baldwin is next in line. A hard-hitting lefty outfielder with considerable power, Baldwin led the state champions last year as a junior with 13 home runs.
At 5-11 and 205 pounds, his muscle in the middle of the lineup was his most significant contribution to the team’s championship run, according to his coach.
“He’s a power hitter from gap to gap,” said East Rutherford head coach Bobby Dale Reynolds. “He’s a self-made player, a very hard worker. He’s worked extremely hard in the offseason in strength training and things like that.”
Fox agreed, “Seth is a big, strong kid with tremendous power and bat speed. We also like his athleticism and we think he can be a good player for us. He is deceptively fast and his strengths offensively will fit in well at Boshamer Stadium.”
Baldwin believes that the work ethic mentioned by his coach is the trait that distinguishes him from others.
“I’ve always had people around me that work hard, so I knew what I had to do to be where I wanted to be,” he said.
While East Rutherford grads Blanton, Leach, and even Flack had a hand in convincing Baldwin to sign with UNC, he’d had eyes on Chapel Hill since childhood.
“I’ve followed Carolina since I was a kid,” Baldwin said. “It’s always been my dream to go there.”
The efforts of his former teammates, coupled with his lifelong affinity for UNC, resulted in a commitment over strong interest from South Carolina, N.C. State, Clemson, and ECU.
“Carolina was just always where I wanted to be,” said Baldwin. “In the back of my mind I was always thinking about Carolina and when they started recruiting me harder, I committed because I knew where I wanted to be.”
Baldwin’s athletic ability is arguably even more impressive than his powerful bat. He had five assists from right field last year for the Cavaliers, as well as recording a 7.0 60-yard dash time.
Perfect Game ranks him the No. 60 outfielder in the nation, and he is the No. 12-ranked prospect in the state of North Carolina according to Impact Baseball.
Baldwin will spend the next seven months preparing to make the transition to the next level. When asked which part of his game he needs to improve the most to be successful in the college game, he admits, “Every part of my game, it's just the way I play. I don’t focus on just one thing, I focus on every aspect of the game.”
|TAR HEEL BASEBALL RECRUITING BOARD
||Forest City (N.C.) East Rutherford
||Seaford (Del.) High
||Henderson (Nev.) Green Valley
||Washington (D.C.) St. John
||Annandale (N.J.) North Hunterdon
||Clemmons (N.C.) West Forsyth
||Wentzville (Mo.) Holt
||Hudson (N.C.) South Caldwell
||Medford (N.J.) Shawnee
||Nashville (Tenn.) Brentwood
||Creedmoor (N.C.) South Granville
||Rocky Mount (N.C.) High
||Lexington (N.C.) North Davidson
||Lewisville (N.C.) Forsyth Country Day