OPPOSING coaches might take a second look when they peruse Columbus North’s starting baseball lineup and see a kid named Canaan Baum.
When told, though, that it is pronounced “Kay-nan” and not “Can-non,” it would appear to be time to relax.
Then when the left-handed hitting Baum actually comes to the plate, well, a sophomore who is 5-foot-10 and 160 pounds can’t hurt you, right?
On one of the state’s top offensive teams, Baum has been the main power source. Through 10 games, Baum has 20 RBI and seven extra base hits, including three home runs (or Baum bombs).
“Size really doesn’t matter,” said Baum, an outfielder and pitcher. “It’s more of a mental game. It’s also about technique, picking up on the ball and reading it.”
Whatever the secret to his technique, Baum creates power with his swing.
“He generates torque in both the upper half and the lower half of his body,” said Columbus North coach Ben McDaniel. “He was hitting that way when he was 10 years old with the Indiana Blazers. I was his coach then, but I am not claiming to have anything to do with that swing.
“It’s natural. Canaan is going to try to hit it as far as he can every time he goes to the plate.”
That can be real far. His home runs have been of the towering variety.
Baum’s emergence has come at a perfect time for the Bull Dogs, who sport a lineup that includes Devin Mann, a junior shortstop who already has committed to the University of Louisville.
Although Mann had 19 extra-base hits last season and 29 RBI, McDaniel decided to use him as his lead-off hitter in 2014.
“It’s an unconventional move,” McDaniel said. “Devin is a ‘3’ hole hitter, and his reputation is known around the state. We like to keep pressure on the other teams, and Devin can do that.”
Once deciding to bat Mann at the lead-off spot, McDaniel had another tough decision. He needed to find a quality hitter to follow him so that opposing pitchers didn’t constantly pitch around Mann.
That guy was Baum.
“It was huge for us (to have Baum hit the second spot),” McDaniel said. “We needed somebody to move Devin around the bases, and Canaan has embraced his role.”
Mann, who has scored 12 runs in 10 games and has 11 steals, is glad to have Baum backing him up.
“It’s definitely nice that they can’t pitch around me because they have to go to Canaan,” Mann said.
Some coaches are unfamiliar with Baum, but McDaniel said the word is spreading.
“I don’t think Canaan’s reputation is out there yet,” McDaniel said. “But I guarantee you that the guys who have seen him won’t make the same mistakes.”
Baum was hitting in the .400s but has run into a little tough luck of late and is down to .350. McDaniel said he has continued to crush the ball.
“We measure quality at-bats, and he definitely is giving us those,” McDaniel said. “And I believe he can do it the whole season.”
There was a time when McDaniel said Baum could be prone to losing his focus at the plate.
“He is extremely hard on himself,” McDaniel said. “He’s done a lot of growing up.”
“I’ve matured,” he said. “My goal is not to get down on myself. And when you are doing well, you just feel good about yourself.”
Mann feels good as well.
“It’s nice having him back there to protect me,” Mann said.