A league of his own

Drake BaldwinDrake Baldwin doesn’t think he presents as the kid with a 3.96 GPA. As the mixed-race son of a white single mother, a Sun Prairie kindergarten teacher, Drake believes implicit bias sometimes overrides his real story. These biases, he says, can play out in the classroom. That’s when he likes being the kid who betrays stereotypes.

“Right away I may be perceived as not as smart,” Drake says about how it feels to be a student of color in a majority white school with mostly white teachers. “Or at first they may put their attentions to all white kids who come in with all of their books ready. I’ll look around the classroom and there might be some African Americans on their phones and a teacher doesn’t care, but if a white student takes out his phone, they’re like, ‘Hey, put that away.’ “

But if misconceptions about Drake’s aptitude exist, they dissolve quickly when he’s given the opportunity to perform. At home, where he lives with his mother and his maternal grandparents, the academic bar is set high—all are UW-Madison alums who are present in every aspect of his life. Drake, however, has chosen a different college path. A gifted baseball and hockey player, he will attend Missouri State, where he plans to major in business on an academic and athletic scholarship.

While Drake acknowledges inequities around him, he admits his world is fairly privileged. He is the only Person of Color in his family so he lives in a very white privileged world in a very white near west side neighborhood. So it’s the diversity within its halls, he says, that he appreciates the most about school. He has many friends from as many backgrounds and this feeds a broader perception of his world. “I have all different races for friends so I might act a little different around each friendship group because that’s what their background is, and they might have different personalities because of how they grew up, but that’s cool.”

Drake’s big dream? A Major League Baseball (MLB) draft someday, but his long-term strategy is smart and practical. “My dream is the MLB, but education’s bigger because if you don’t make it to MLB, there’s always something to fall back on,” says Drake.

His mother Bridgette Baldwin, a graduate of West High, is understandably proud of the young man she’s raised and thankful for the tribe that helped launch him.

“Drake is a well-balanced young man,” she says. “Although he excels as an athlete, his strength revolves around relationships with friends and family.  He is an amazing human being and has a bright future thanks to the coaches and teachers who have taken him under their wings and believed in him.”

Meanwhile, as Drake prepares for graduation, he will continue his impressive school to sports to study regimen. The line up? From October to March he plays West Hockey, which dovetails right into West baseball season. Then in summer he plays tournament baseball until tournament hockey starts in fall. And when he gets home at night, his grandmother has dinner, preferably steak, waiting before he hits the books. “She makes a lot of good food. I'm really lucky,” he says about the love and support he gets at home.