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NMSU team doctor hits the target

Between practicing medicine for 36 years, assisting on the sidelines at athletic events or volunteering in the community, many people in the Las Cruces community likely know Dr. William Baker. But did you know ?Doc Baker? is an award-winning marksman?


Two men stand and pose for a photo wearing Old West costumes.
Dr. William Baker (left), New Mexico State University athletics team physician, aka ?Doc Baker,? and a friend, Michael Phillips, aka ?Four Bucks,? participated at the Single Action Shooting Society Winter Range National Championship in February in Arizona. Baker was named the Classic Cowboy of the Year for 2015. (Courtesy photo)

Baker, team physician and medical director for New Mexico State University?s athletic department for the past 26 years, has participated in Cowboy Action Shooting since 2002. A hobby that includes old guns and costumes has filled a trophy case with belt buckles for Baker, who was honored at the Winter Range National Championship in February in Arizona.

?This year I was nominated and given an award for the Classic Cowboy of the Year for 2015, which is to me quite an honor,? Baker said.

An interest in the Old West along with a gift of a Colt revolver included in a patient?s will helped start his hobby. When the patient?s brother gave Baker the gun, he remembered the patient?s words ?you always looked like a cowboy, you need a cowboy gun.?

After researching Cowboy Action Shooting, Baker found a shooting club in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, that didn?t conflict with the Aggies? football schedule.

?Because of my doing athletics, I?m not here on Fridays and Saturdays. This club happened to shoot on Sundays. I learned about shooting and got into the sport that way.?

Competing in the Single Action Shooting Society?s Classic Cowboy category, participants are required to wear a costume that includes items such as chaps, spurs and hats; shoot one-handed; fire a .40-caliber or bigger; and shoot a specific type of pistol, rifle and shotgun. In the last few years, Baker has placed in the top 10 at the national and world championships.

While NMSU football scheduling can conflict with shooting competitions, later this month Baker will travel to St. George, Utah, to compete in the Four Corners Regional Shoot, before ending his shooting cycle for the year at the world championships in Edgewood, New Mexico, in the end of June.

When Baker is not shooting with a local club, ?The Picacho Posse,? on Saturdays, he can be found at NMSU athletic events.

Before working with the Aggies, Baker worked with the local high schools. His tenure started at NMSU in 1990 when Ricky Mendini, the head athletic trainer at that time, and Dr. Robert Stack cornered Baker.

?I made sure my wife gave them her permission that I did this and they said sure. I have been working with them ever since,? Baker said. ?It?s kind of interesting that when I got started in medicine, sports medicine was not a residency, not a fellowship that even existed and that has all developed in those ensuing years.?

NMSU Assistant Athletics Director and Head Athletic Trainer Mike O?Larey said NMSU owes Baker for his leadership and support that has allowed the athletics department to follow the best health care practices.

?He is the guiding force of our Sports Medicine Department,? O?Larey said. ?His focus is on the health and well being of our student-athletes. He does what is best for each person he sees.?

?I like working with the healthy athletes because they want to get better and participate. That?s what is fun about doing it,? Baker said.

Additionally, as a member of the board of trustees for the Burrell College of Osteopathic Medicine, Baker said he is excited for the school?s opening in fall 2016.

?I think it?s one of the neatest things that?s happened in this community in a long, long time,? Baker said. ?I think it is going to help the university expand and grow. I think it?s going to help our community, and I think it?s going to help the Southwest community, because it will provide an additional source for physicians and physician education that hasn?t been available before.?

For a video on Cowboy Action Shooting, visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=upvTk_FCDz0