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Crash Kills Baseball Prospects

July 31, 2001|Lance Pugmire

Gerik Baxter, a right-handed pitcher who began the season as the San Diego Padres' fifth-ranked minor league prospect, was killed in a car crash Sunday night in Indio.

The crash also claimed the life of Mark Hilde, an unsigned 2001 draft pick of the Oakland Athletics and a former high school teammate of Baxter.

According to a California Highway Patrol report, Baxter was driving a 2001 Ford F-350 at an estimated 75 to 85 mph on westbound Interstate 10 when the right tire blew, causing the truck to veer to the right and sideswipe a Chevrolet Tahoe before leaving the freeway and rolling several times on a dirt shoulder.

Neither occupant was wearing a seat belt, and both were ejected. Baxter, 21, died at the scene. Hilde, 18, died en route to Desert Regional Medical Center in Palm Springs.

They were returning from Phoenix, where Hilde, a third baseman and 32nd-round draft pick of Oakland, had played in a tournament.

"This has taken everyone by shock," said Tye Waller, the Padres' director of player development. "Great kid. We're just all stunned."

Baxter spent this season rehabilitating from elbow surgery with the Class-A Lake Elsinore Storm of the California League. The 6-foot-2, 185-pounder was a first-round pick (28th overall) by the Padres out of Edmonds-Woodway (Wash.) High in 1999.

His fastball was clocked as high as 96 mph last year at low Class-A Fort Wayne, Ind.

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