By John Maffei
July 30, 2001
SAN DIEGO—Gerik Baxter, one of the top pitching prospects in the Padres system, and Mark Hilde, a 2001 draft pick of the Athletics, were killed Sunday in a car crash near Indio, Calif. Baxter was 21. Hilde was 18.
Baxter, a righthander drafted in the first round in 1999, had been rated San Diego’s fifth-best prospect by Baseball America entering the 2001 season. Hilde, a third baseman, was taken in the 32nd round this June but hadn’t signed with Oakland.
“This is a shocker, something that stops you dead in your tracks,” Padres farm director Tye Waller said. “It’s very unfortunate, very sad.”
Baxter, who had been injured all season, had gone to Phoenix to watch Hilde, his former teammate at Edmonds-Woodway (Wash.) High, play in a tournament. They were driving back to southern California when the accident occurred.
According to police reports, Baxter’s 2001 Ford F-350 blew a right rear tire while traveling on southbound Interstate 10. The truck was in the fast lane traveling at 75-85 mph when the tire blew, causing it to veer to the right and sideswipe a Chevy Tahoe.
Baxter lost control of his truck, which left the roadway and rolled several times. Both Baxter and Hilde were ejected from the Ford F-350. Neither was wearing his seatbelt.
Baxter was the second of San Diego’s six first-round picks in 1999 and went 10-6, 3.19 in two seasons. He showed a low-90s fastball and a plus slider at low Class A Fort Wayne in 2000, when he went 5-6, 3.40 with 103 strikeouts in 101 innings.
He was just coming into his own when he was hit in the head by a line drive in late June, causing him to miss seven weeks with a concussion. Baxter was supposed to make up for lost time by pitching in Australia last winter, but left after one outing with what was believed to be a minor elbow problem.
The injury was much more serious than initially thought, however, requiring Tommy John surgery. He had been on a rehab assignment with high Class A Lake Elsinore.