College Baseball Pitcher, Sang Ho Baek, Dies After Tommy John Surgery

Sang Ho Baek, 20, “had been battling injuries throughout the season,” a teammate said, and underwent Tommy John surgery, a relatively common procedure for pitchers.,


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A college baseball player died from complications of a surgery shortly after completing his freshman season at George Mason University in Virginia, according to the school and a funeral home.

The player, Sang Ho Baek, 20, died on June 12 at a TidalHealth medical facility in Salisbury, Md., according to the Holloway Funeral Home, which is handling his service. Scott Morgan, a teammate of Mr. Baek’s, said Mr. Baek died after complications of so-called Tommy John surgery, a procedure to mend a torn ligament inside the elbow.

Mr. Morgan said Mr. Baek, a right-handed pitcher, “had been battling injuries throughout the season” at George Mason, a public research university in Fairfax, Va., with roughly 37,000 students.

“We are devastated by the passing of Sang,” Coach Bill Brown said in a statement. “Sang was an incredible teammate who was loved by everyone associated with Mason baseball.”

Brad Edwards, the university’s athletic director, said in the statement that Mr. Baek “embodied everything you would want from a student-athlete.”

“He was an excellent student, dedicated teammate and friend to so many,” he continued.

Officially called an ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction, the Tommy John surgery repairs a ligament that helps secure a person’s elbow joint and that can be torn during sports that involve throwing, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. The procedure, which is informally named after the first major-league pitcher to undergo it, leaves players with a crescent-shaped scar inside the elbow.

According to Dr. Sandro Galea, dean of the Boston University School of Public Health, the procedure is “relatively routine for baseball players.”

“His death is tragic,” Dr. Galea said. “It is hard to say what happened and it will require an autopsy to determine the cause here. All surgeries, even relatively minor and routine ones, carry some risk.”

Mr. Baek was born on Jan. 31, 2001, in Seoul to Seong Han Baek and En Young Lee, according to the funeral home.

He played at James M. Bennett High School in Salisbury, Md., where he helped his team win a 2019 state championship, according to George Mason University.

Mr. Baek recently completed his freshman season with the university’s baseball team, the Patriots. He appeared in seven games for the team and made his college debut on March 12, according to the university.

The funeral home said Mr. Baek attended the Korean Presbyterian Church, where he was involved in the youth group and played drums in its worship band. In 2018, Mr. Baek embarked on a mission trip to Nicaragua, where he helped build houses for people and taught the Gospel to children.

In addition to his parents, he is survived by a sister, Sun Ho Baek, the funeral home said.

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