Michael Baker is coming back to the CSRA.
Baker, who amassed teaching, coaching and college experience at multiple area schools before his two most recent stints with Georgia high schools, was announced Monday as the new head baseball coach at South Aiken High School.
"Honestly, it's an honor. I lived in the CSRA for six years prior to me moving away," he said. "I feel truly blessed to be able to come to South Aiken; that's always been a school that I wanted to even just teach at, let alone be a head baseball coach there.
"Truly, to come back to the CSRA and be a part of that baseball program and hopefully see it go forward, build upon the success that Coach (Bob) Polewski has left and the legacy that he's left behind, it's going to be an awesome experience."
Baker replaces Polewski, who stepped down following this past season after more than a decade of leading the T-Breds' program.
Baker comes to South Aiken from his alma mater, Georgia's Camden County High School, where he served as an assistant coach in charge of middle infielders and the hitting program this past season when the Wildcats advanced to the Sweet 16 of the state's Class AAAAAAA playoffs. He sent both of his middle infielders to play collegiately, and he's hoping to continue the trend at South Aiken of T-Breds advancing to play at the next level.
"Every single year, and (Polewski) still has guys playing in the professional ranks right now. ... It's going to be difficult to follow up his resume," he said. "I hope to meet up to those standards, his legacy that he's left as far as sending guys to not only just college but to big-name schools and professional drafts. I hope to leave that, as well. As far as getting them to that point, I think the programs that I've put guys through in the previous places I've been will prepare them for that."
Baker was an assistant coach at Gilmer High School in Ellijay, Georgia, before Camden County, following a period at McCormick High School where he did a little of everything. He was the Chiefs' head coach in 2015 after a year as an assistant, and he also was the head middle school football coach, the head boys' basketball coach and associate head football coach.
Baker's collegiate baseball career included stops at Georgia Southwestern (2007) and South Georgia College (07-09). He graduated from Augusta State University, where he earned a bachelor's degree in Health and Physical Education. His first teaching job was in the area, at A.L. Corbett Middle School.
"To be back in Aiken County is a blessing in its own to me," said Baker, who will teach math at Kennedy Middle. "I love this county to death."
Polewski, who has remained at South Aiken as the athletic director, said Monday that Baker could bring new ideas and possibly some new philosophies to hopefully keep the program moving forward. In Baker, a firm believer in getting better in the weight room, the T-Breds have a coach who wants his team to have a reputation as a blue-collar club.
"This program's the same way as I always have with any program I've always been a part of. I want this program to be known as the hardest-working in the state, whether that be on or off the field," he said. "... I think that, especially after talking to Coach Polewski, we've got some kids coming back that are going to be those kids, the hard-nosed kids that will put their nose to the grindstone and get after it in the weight room, get after it on the practice field, get after it academically, and I'm hoping to expand upon that."
South Aiken will host a meet-and-greet with Baker at 7 p.m. June 29 in the school's media center.