By LINDA KELLETT
For the Recorder
FORT PLAIN -- Friends and relatives packed the Fort Plain Reformed Church on Tuesday night as they paid their respects to former Fort Plain athlete Bo Michael Baker. A funeral service in his honor will be held at the church beginning at 10 a.m. today.
Baker, 21, was killed in an auto accident in the town of Little Falls late last week when he lost control of his vehicle on a stretch of Route 5 between the city of Little Falls and Herkimer. State Police out of Herkimer said the 2004 Chevrolet Cavalier he was operating exited the south shoulder, struck a snow embankment and overturned, coming to rest on the vehicle's roof, which was partially submerged in a pond adjacent to the roadway. The accident was reported at around 6:45 a.m. Friday.
Herkimer County Coroner Vincent Enea on Tuesday said Baker died as a result of injuries sustained in the accident, which is still under investigation.
He was the sole occupant in the vehicle.
Baker was the son of Kenneth Baker Jr. and Theresa Fassett Baker and the brother of fellow athletes Dustin and Brent Baker, who pitched and played shortstop on their high school baseball team, respectively.
A Fort Plain High School alumnus, Baker participated in the varsity bowling and baseball programs while in high school and was a rookie member of the Fort Plain Hilltoppers' 2007 Class C state championship baseball team, said former baseball coach, Craig Phillips.
As noted in his obituary, Baker also played baseball while a student at Fulton-Montgomery and Schenectady County Community colleges.
"He'd still be playing, but he hurt his arm," said Phillips.
"He was still pursuing his education. He was a quality kid. He had so much life to live," Phillips said over the weekend.
Over his coaching career, Phillips said he's coached over 300 students. With emotion, he said, "When they leave, they're still my kids. Bo would help me seal my driveway, work on the field. He was not only a good player but a good friend. We're going to miss him."
He described the athlete as "one of the best," noting that Baker as a senior was "phenomenal."
Even after Baker graduated, he still came back to help with the baseball program. Phillips said, "He worked at the ['Toppers'] baseball camps. He liked working with the kids," he said.
Baker's former bowling coach, Sarah Maiello, echoed that, saying, "After he graduated, he would come to matches. He was always there to cheer the team on and to say hi."
During his bowling career, Baker was always a member of the starting lineup, said Maiello.
"He was one of my top bowlers," she said, noting that everybody liked him.
She described Baker as "very quiet. He was our 'gentle giant' on the team. He was a silent contributor, but he made a huge impact. He did his job and was always willing to help his teammates out. He went there and did the best he could to improve himself."
Maiello said Baker was a great asset to the team. "He was the kind of athlete you dream about," she said.
As noted in his obituary, Baker "touched the heart of so many with his ability to light up a room with laughter and an amazing sense of humor."
His hobbies included hunting, fishing, playing horseshoes, working on cars, camping, music and collecting knives. He also "truly enjoyed time with his many friends and his brothers, who were his best friends," noted his obituary.
In lieu of flowers, Baker's family asked that contributions in Bo's memory be made to the Fort Plain Baseball Fund, 1 Henry Street, Fort Plain, N.Y. 13339.