Poker winnings help light Prucha Field
Baldwin has donated $200,000 toward lights for Jim Miller Stadium at Prucha Field. The lights will help Whitewater host the 2010 NCAA Division III Midwest Regional on May 19-23.
“It feels awesome to be in a position to help UW-Whitewater host the regional again,” Baldwin said. “UW-Whitewater has an amazing baseball program and hopefully the team will be playing in this year’s regional in front of its hometown crowd.”
Whitewater last hosted a Midwest baseball regional in 2005, the same year the Warhawks won the Division III national championship. Baldwin, a Beaver Dam native, was the team captain and right fielder.
Baldwin graduated with a degree in psychology in 2006. He moved to Las Vegas in 2008.
The 26-year-old Baldwin won four major poker tournaments in 2009 and made $1.5 million. He was named CardPlayer Magazine’s Player of the Year. He has won nearly $3 million since turning pro four years ago.
Baldwin said his role as a team captain during his final season with the Warhawks has been especially helpful for his career.
“When you’re a captain, you deal with different kinds of people and you learn to understand why certain people do certain things, just like in poker,” Baldwin said.
Once he became successful, Baldwin said it seemed selfish not to do something good with the money.
“I’ve always wanted to give back to a program that taught me so much,” he said.
Baldwin credits much of his poker success to the Warhawk baseball program and coach John Vodenlich.
“We were fortunate enough to take third place in 2004 and then win a national championship in 2005,” Baldwin said. “I learned that if you put a lot of hard work into something and fight through the hard times, things will work out. Preparation leads to success.”
Vodenlich said he continues to be impressed by Baldwin’s maturity and generosity. “Throughout this whole process, Eric has continually said how fortunate he is to be in a situation to help us,” Vodenlich said. “That says a lot about his character.”
While Vodenlich said he was leery about Baldwin’s decision to become a professional gambler, he’s happy Baldwin didn’t follow his advice to “use his degree in a more stable and appropriate manner because it’s paid huge dividends for (Baldwin) and our program.”
Baldwin recently signed a sponsorship deal with Ultimate Bet (UB.net), a free, on-line poker Web site, and looks forward to working with the other sponsored professionals to make UB.net one of the top online poker destinations.
As “Player of the Year,” Baldwin will appear in NBC’s Heads-Up Championship, which films in early March and airs in April.
He also hopes to sit at the final table at the World Poker Tour event, which is also televised.
“I want to be able to tell my Grandma on which channel and at what time she can watch me play,” Baldwin said.