A freshman pitcher for George Mason University died following complications from a Tommy John surgery, according to a verified GoFundMe page organized by one of his teammates.
Sang Ho Baeck, a Salisbury resident, died on June 12 due to complications from ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction, according to the Virginia university’s athletics department. He was 20 years old.
George Mason’s head baseball coach, Bill Brown, in a statement revealed the team has been left “devastated” by the loss.
“Sang was an incredible teammate who was loved by everyone associated with Mason baseball,” he said. “He will be missed and forever cherished in our hearts. Right now, our thoughts are with Sang’s family at this unbearably difficult time.”
In Tommy John surgery — named for the then-Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher who underwent the first such procedure in 1974 — a tendon from elsewhere on the body is used to replace a damaged ligament in the elbow. After missing a season while he recovered, John went on to pitch 14 more years, retiring at 46.
The surgery has been performed on countless pitchers since.
Baeck made his collegiate baseball debut for George Mason University in March during a showdown against UMBC. He pitched seven games during his opening season with the Patriots, and he previously helped his high school baseball team, J.M. Bennett, win the Maryland Class 3A state championship in 2019.
“We are heartbroken and extend our deepest condolences to his family and friends,” said George Mason Assistant Vice President/Director of Athletic Brad Edwards.
“Sang embodied everything you would want from a student-athlete. He was an excellent student, dedicated teammate and friend to so many. We are committed to providing support and resources to Sang’s teammates and all those in the Mason family who loved him.”
He was born in Seoul, Korea, and graduated from J.M. Bennett in 2020, according to a family obituary. Baeck participated in the youth group and played drums for the worship band at Korean Presbyterian Church; during a mission trip to Nicaragua in 2018, he helped build homes for indigenous people and preached to children, the obituary stated.
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“He loved all types of music and playing the drums, and enjoyed swimming and surfing at the Assateague National Park. He especially loved his mother’s Korean cooking,” the obituary said.