By CONRAD SUTCLIFFE
DEVON’S up-and-coming quick bowler Sonny Baker has signed a contract that secures him a place on the Somerset Academy with immediate effect.
Somerset have been keeping an eye on Baker since he featured in the Bunbury Festival at Millfield School in 2018 and his performances for club side Torquay and Devon age-group teams have not gone un-noticed.
Before Covid-19 restrictions put paid to National Counties cricket, Baker was part of Devon’s three-day plans last summer. He was limited to just one friendly game, which was against Wiltshire at Sidmouth.
Having had a close look a Baker in a 2nd XI fixture against Kent in 2019, Somerset tracked the 17-year-old pacer during the limited opportunities presented by a cut-down 2020 season.
Baker finished the season with two appearances for the Young Lions South against the Young Lions North at Loughborough, where he picked up wickets in both games.
Baker is no stranger to the Academy set-up at Taunton – he has spent time working with the coaches there before – and is looking forward to making his association more permanent.
“Being signed on to the Somerset Academy has been something I’ve been targeting and working hard for over the last three years,” said Baker.
“It is a privilege to be able to train with the Academy boys and I am grateful for the opportunity to work alongside Somerset’s best up-and-coming players.”
Steve Snell, who heads-up the talent pathway at Somerset, said Baker has impressed him on several levels.
“Sonny possesses some highly exciting skills, such as bowling with pace and bounce, but crucially he has displayed the character traits of someone who is highly motivated to develop himself and to keep pushing himself to improve without prompting,” said Snell.
“Sonny has carved out this opportunity by working hard and smartly on his game for the past few years, despite numerous knockbacks, and it is a credit to him that he has continued to think about his game and positively impact his own growth.
“Sonny has asked tough questions of himself on the areas he needs to improve, and he has been proactive about working on them.
“It has been a pleasure to collaborate with the Devon Pathway and King’s College over the past three years and to watch how both parties have combined with Somerset pathway coach Andrew Griffiths to aid Sonny’s development.”
Sandy Allen, who has worked with Baker as a coach and latterly in his capacity as Devon’s pathway manager, said: “It is a huge credit to Sonny’s ability, work ethic and resilience that he has earned a place on the Somerset Academy.
“I believe he will work as hard as any player on the programme and his commitment, dedication to training and discipline to date has been outstanding.
“We look forward to continually working with Somerset in his development.”
Baker is the latest of a long line of players nurtured by Devon to step up to professional cricket with Somerset. England star Dom Bess (Sidmouth), Ben Green (Exeter) and Tom Lammonby (also Exeter) are the most recent graduates of the Taunton academy. Others to have passed through the portals include the Overton twins and Lewis Gregory. All have played for England at some level from under-19 up.
Baker spent three years at Torquay Boys’ Grammar School before switching to King’s College in Taunton, where former Somerset and Devon batsman Rob Woodman is the director of cricket.
Baker also has a place on the ECB’s Young Lions development camps this winter and Woodman said the college could not be prouder of him.
“It was a very proud moment for everyone connected with Sonny to hear of his selection on to the Somerset Academy,” said Woodman, who was capped by England at under-19 level.
“Sonny has worked extremely hard over a number of years and has been extremely thoughtful and diligent with his practice.
“Sonny’s attitude has been highly proactive, and his thoughts and energy are clearly directed towards improving every aspect of himself.
"The cricket coaches and strength-and-conditioning team at King's have spent many hours supporting Sonny's journey and they are likewise delighted he has achieved a place on this hugely successful academy.
“I am delighted our strong links with Somerset and Devon continue to help players fulfil their ambitions in the game.
“Sonny is one of the first pupils to benefit from our new cricket centre and we are so pleased that the huge number of extra hours he has put into his development have paid dividends.”