K-State’s 1st black baseball coach uses retirement, free time for garden railroads

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MANHATTAN, Kan. (KSNT)– Dave Baker has made history a few times in his life, even becoming the first Black, head baseball coach at Kansas State University. Now that he’s retired, he’s not slowing down. Instead, he’s on a new track starting a railroad in his backyard.

Mr. Baker was born and raised in Manhattan. He’s always had a love for trains and even baseball. Within his lifetime, he’s been able to live out his passion for both.

Mr. Baker played baseball since he was a kid, even getting the chance to play while he was in college.
His hard work on the diamond caught some eyes as he made history as the first Black, head baseball coach at K-State in 1978.

“At the time it was about just coaching and winning games,” Baker said. “I feel like after looking back at my coach career, coaching record…I didn’t win a lot of championships. But I won a lot of games and help a lot of young men.”

He’s been retired from coaching for about 25 years. So what does the man of history do in his free time? Besides being the director at the Douglass Community Recreation Center in Manhattan, he’s recently been putting together trains.

“And I saw the garden railroad and I’d always wanted to do one,” Baker said. “I knew that I had the setting here, so I bought a starter kit.”

Since 2016, Mr. Baker has started his garden railway. He’s loved trains since his first ride on a train to Saint Louis with his dad, hearing the conductor say “all aboard.”

While they may be just trains to others, for Mr. Baker, it’s a message he wants to send everyone. Not only is this his hobby, but it’s also a way to keep him busy and fulfilling his passions as he’s been at home during the pandemic.

“You have to find something,” Baker said. “You have to find something that keeps you going, keeps your mind going and enjoying life each and every day. As long as I have my health, and a good mind, I will do that.”

Now one of the trains has its own city. It’s called “Sumac City” named after the street he lives on. Some parts of the town he built himself, including the baseball field, is named after his dad.

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