Baker Krukow and his baseball- and music-oriented family can’t get enough of the Nevada campus and the northern Nevada way of life. Speaking for the group of seven, from a sports perspective, it’s almost heaven.
“I just love being a Nevada alum,” the 24-year-old says.
Krukow played in 187 games with the Nevada Wolf Pack, placing 10th in program history. A leader as a Wolf Pack catcher and designated hitter from 2003 to 2007, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism last May. His 22-year-old sister, Tessa, walked across the same University Quadrangle stage in 2007 at Commencement to complete her undergraduate studies in music. Brother Jarek, 28, a former volunteer assistant coach with Nevada baseball and now an assistant at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, received his bachelor’s degree in general studies at the University of Nevada in 2006.
The siblings are the sons and daughter of former Major League All-Star pitcher Mike Krukow, a featured speaker at the campus’ 24th annual Bobby Dolan Baseball Dinner Feb. 19 at the Silver Legacy Resort Casino. Krukow, who played 14 seasons in the Majors with the Chicago Cubs, Philadelphia Phillies and San Francisco Giants, is an Emmy award-winning broadcaster of Giants’ games.
Mike, who played collegiately for Cal Poly and lives in San Luis Obispo, knew Baker made the right decision in joining Nevada in 2003 after it looked like he was going to suit up for Santa Clara. The Wolf Pack’s self-discipline under 26-year Head Coach Gary Powers and its focused approach to games — especially for its annual rivalry with UNLV — left a strong impression on Mike, who estimated he watched Baker compete for the Pack about 10 times each season.
“It was a combination of that and the fact that I told him, ‘We just really don’t like UNLV,’” said Baker. “He knew everything that Coach Powers was about and the program was about. He knew all about the guys that were in the big leagues from Nevada. He said they were similar and successful because they knew how to prepare for a game.”
Powers has coached the Pack to 761 victories, and accomplishment that ranks him 31st among active Division I head coaches. Nevada’s 2008 season opens at home Feb. 22 against UC Irvine.
“It’s discipline that a lot of guys benefit from,” Mike Krukow said. “I know what I’ve seen from the Nevada guys who’ve come through organized baseball.”
“Coach is really good about putting you in tough situations before the season starts,” Baker said. “So when the season starts, you’re ready for those situations…you’re not surprised by anything. My dad realized the guys who were Nevada alums (and progressed to the Major Leagues) like Lyle Overbay, Ryan Church, Darrell Rasner and Chris Singleton, all those guys we’re really tough mentally. Nothing really bothered them and they just went up there and did their thing. Kind of grinding their way to the top. He’s likes that aspect of it, and that’s pretty much what got us to Nevada.”
'A great place'
Only six years ago, it seemed like Baker would attend college where he was raised in California. But his San Luis Obispo High School friend, Scott Garrison, was recruited to the Nevada football team in 2002, and a subsequent call from Nevada pitching coach Stan Stolte secured the Wolf Pack a new catcher.
“The University of Nevada is a great place,” Powers said. “A lot of people don’t realize that.
“We just use our normal recruiting mechanisms and present our program as it is. Just be open and honest about our program and our facilities.”
Mike, who occasionally extols the Wolf Pack program while sharing anecdotes with play-by-play man Duane Kuiper in his color-commentating role on the Giants’ broadcast network, said it is clear Baker matured in competition on the Peccole Park field.
“I gave Gary the boy,” he said. “He gave me back a man.”
“He always gives Nevada props,” Baker emphasizes, laughing about the Pack popping up positively when his dad is on the air. “He loves it.”
The rest of the Krukow clan
The Krukows’ ties to Nevada now include Baker’s wife of seven months, Celina Roberge, an All-Western Athletic Conference pole vaulter who joined Wolf Pack record-holders in the event in 2003.
“When we pick Wiffle ball teams, she’s the first pick,” Mike says of the December 2006 University health ecology graduate who works for Reno Orthopedic Clinic.
If the family bent turns from baseball to music, as it frequently does, there’s once again a wide selection of available players.
“We use the formal living room (in San Luis Obispo) as a music room,” said Mike, who plays guitar along with Baker and Tessa. Baker’s mother, Jennifer, plays mandolin. Youngest son Wes plays stand-up bass and sings along with brother Chase.