Cabrillo Soccer

FEATURE: Duane Baker Pushing Himself For Cabrillo Boys’ Soccer

The562’s coverage of Cabrillo Athletics is sponsored by the Cohn Family.

Duane Baker is the type of soccer player who thrives on challenges.

The Cabrillo senior has taken every opportunity to better himself and the most impactful opportunity was training with Cabrillo’s 2016 Moore League championship boys’ soccer team.

Hudson K-8 School would let out early on Thursday’s so an 8-year old Baker walked past the Cabrillo High soccer field on his way home to Century Villages near campus.

“As a kid I would just stand at the gate and watch (Cabrillo soccer practice) and then one day (coach Pat Noyes) asked me if I wanted to practice with them,” Baker recalled. “First, I had to make sure it was okay with my mom.”

“I always ask kids if they play soccer, he just said yes,” Noyes said. “We saw him play and started telling him to show up. He did and it just kept going.”

Baker went toe-to-toe with one of the best soccer teams in Cabrillo history while great players like Bryan Moses pushed him to get better. Moses even hung back during conditioning to run with Baker.

“It was a great opportunity for me to be practicing with kids much older than me while getting to see a lot of things like the physicality and how quickly the ball moves,” Baker said. “It was a good experience, and it was definitely a selfless act from (Noyes). I really appreciate him.”

Baker is now a versatile senior who can move all over the field as part of the Cabrillo attack, but he wasn’t headed for success when he arrived as a freshman. Struggles in the classroom and eligibility got in the way of Baker reaching his potential before advice from teachers, Noyes and family changed his attitude.

“I was a 2.0 student, but I realized that you have to be a student before you can be an athlete,” Baker said. “That woke me up. Especially for this year. I’m trying to play in college, so this is the year to show I’m good in the classroom as well as on the field.”

Hard work paid off. Baker is now an Honor Roll student who loves his English and History classes.

“Now when I’m in school I’m engaged,” Baker said.

Monthly Subscribers to The562

By The562 Network Inc

Growing up in Long Beach as the middle of three brothers, Baker followed them to the football and soccer fields. When he scored double-digit goals in his first AYSO season, the opportunity to join Beach FC gave Baker another challenge.

“Soccer was a thing at school that I would play with my friends at recess so I never saw it as a long term thing until middle school,” Baker said. “When I really started to get serious about it when I realized I can do something special (on the field). Then when I was given the Beach FC opportunity it helped me realize that I can actually get somewhere in life through soccer.”

Baker has reached the top level of competition at Beach FC and it’s helped him improve his natural instincts and quickness while being inspired by his all-time favorite soccerplayer, Brazil legend Ronaldinho.

“I like to play a free slowing with a lot of 1-2’s,” Baker said of his preferred style coming out of the midfield. “I like to be the man dictating the game, but I also like to get forward. I can kind of just see where I want to be.”

This season, Cabrillo features a handful of returning forwards alongside Baker who have a lot of experience and motivation after reaching a CIF Southern Section quarterfinal last year.

“Training is super competitive,” Baker said. “(This team) is players who know what we went through (last season). We all have a good idea of each other’s play styles and we all know the goals we have this year. For how we’ve played so far, I’m really confident in my team.”

The hotly contested Moore League is also the perfect place for Baker to get the most out of his last year at Cabrillo. The Jaguars have a key game at Wilson tonight.

“I would go as far as to say that Moore League boys’ soccer is one of the most competitive leagues in the state,” Baker said. “Everyone has talent. I’ve always liked playing against people who are better than me. I want to show people that I’m one of the best players in the city.”

STANDINGS: Long Beach Boys’ Soccer
JJ Fiddler
JJ Fiddler is an award-winning sportswriter and videographer who has been covering Southern California sports for multiple newspapers and websites since 2004. After attending Long Beach State and creating the first full sports page at the Union Weekly Newspaper, he has been exclusively covering Long Beach prep sports since 2007.