Houston Astros manager Dusty Baker pulled his pickup truck to Palm Beach International Airport on Monday morning at 6:30 a.m., pulled suitcases from the back, walked around and hugged his roommate almost as hard as he could.
He looked at him. There were tears in each other’s eyes. Then they hugged again.
“He was an incredible roommate,” Baker told USA TODAY Sports. “I was so proud of him because he was a good tenant. He was the one who wanted to sit with me, and it was a wonderful spring, indeed, the best spring I have ever had. ”
The roommate was 23-year-old Darren Baker, Dusty’s son.
“It was, of course, emotional, just not knowing if I could see him again,” Darren said.
Darren is heading to Wilmington, Delaware, where he will play second base for the Blue Rocks, a Class A team of the Washington Nationals, on the opening day on April 8 against Brooklyn. Dusty is going to California, where on April 7 “Astros” will open the season against “Los Angeles Angels”.
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This spring, the two spent six weeks together, and Dusty arrived early during the lockout to look at the Astros minor league players, along with some of the Washington Nationals minor league players – who happen to share the same spring training complex.
“He came a couple of times, trying to stay unnoticed,” Darren said, “but I always knew when he was around. He was watching me through the fence, and I always noticed him there, one way or another. ”
They stayed together three to four times a week at Dusty’s apartment near Juneau Beach on Jupiter, about a 30-minute drive from the complex. Cooked infrequently, except when Melissa, Darren’s mother and Dusty’s wife, came for two weeks. They either went out to eat or Dusty took food from the restaurant and brought it home.
“It was great for him because I paid for it,” Baker said, laughing. “I made sure he ate well to maintain his weight. It was hard for me to keep the weight on when I played until I became a man. Darren is late blooming, like all Bakers. He hasn’t shaved yet. I don’t either. ”
The nights always ended the same: the two returned to the apartment, watched Melissa at home in Sacramento and, of course, made sure to wash the dishes and take out the trash.
“They had a rule every night that there should be no dirty dishes in the sink,” Melissa said, “so they took turns following that rule. Dusty is a neat freak, so Darren already knows what his dad is waiting for.
They didn’t go to work, with their different schedules. Dusty had his own pickup. Darren had a Toyota Corolla. Most nights Darren doesn’t sleep later than Dusty. Most of the morning he also got up earlier.
“With the pipes in the house it was pretty funny, every time I turned on the tap at 6:30 in the morning,” Darren said, “he heard it through the walls and in the room. He knew I got up on time. “
Dusty: “All I know is that he was never late.
Family members also visited the city. Longtime family friend David Donati spent nearly a week on Jupiter, sitting idly by, watching father and son discuss their day over dinner.
“It was so beautiful to see them together,” said Donati, “and how happy Dusty was.”
He says that the highlight of not only spring but also Dusty’s career was the day of March 20th. This spring, “Astros” played in the national tournament for the first time.
National team manager Davy Martinez called Darren 20 minutes before the game and told him he would play. Well, and one more thing, he will also be responsible for moving the schedule card to the home plate.
Dusty knew that Martinez had promised him in the winter that Darren would take part in a Premier League match against Astrass, but never thought it would be so soon.
“It shocked me,” Dusty said. “I am sitting on a bench and I see someone waving at me from their dugout. I didn’t know who it was. I look, and he waves me to get out. I think, “Who’s waving at me? I start going out and saying, “This is my son.” ”
They approached the home plate, with Darren, who arrived first, shook hands with the judge’s crew, and then hugged. They exchanged lineup cards, looked at each other and hugged again. They were going to hug for the last time until the judges laughed and told them not to hug anymore.
Before retiring to his ranks, Darren said, “Dad, you know we’re going to beat you.”
Definitely, the Nats did, 3-2, with Darren coming out on second base in the sixth inning, hitting singles with his first swing of the bat in the seventh inning and hit the winning sacrificial fly in the game in the eighth.
“I remembered his birthday,” said family friend George Santiago, who was at the game while staying with the Bakers. “I still remember seeing him hit the ball with a bat at the age of 1, breaking things in the house when he was hitting, and Melissa was shouting, ‘Darren, stop hitting the ball.’
Dusty brought the composition card home and introduced it to Darren. The schedule card and photos from the game will be prominently displayed in Baker’s memorabilia room.
“It was the biggest thrill of my career,” said Baker, who won the World Series with the Los Angeles Dodgers and led two different teams in the World Series. “It was a pleasure, a joy and a goal for a lifetime. Seeing his first hit in the big league in the same spring training town where I first started with Braves, I will never forget it ”.
That evening they went home, shared a moment with Melissa, but didn’t really celebrate. These were just two Bakers doing their job.
Now, 54 years after Dusty first came to spring training in West Palm Beach as a draft in the 26th round to start his 19-year career, together is Darren, a 10- m round from the University of California. Darren beat .303 with 58 stolen bases for Cal, but, according to Baker, the most important thing was that his son graduated with honors in four years of college. He received the Tom Hansen Pac-12 Award from Cal for “the greatest combination of performance and excellence in science, athletics and leadership”.
“That’s what I’m most proud of about graduating from a great school,” Baker said. “I would keep reminding him that I know you can play ball, but you’re a student-athlete. Going to college made him much more disciplined and turned him into a man.
Baker, who enjoyed the summers he spent watching Spurren in between management jobs, still tells stories of fishing in Alaska that he and his family friend Ken Tenell did in the summer of 2019. One day he will have even more time to spend with his son. The 72-year-old Baker doesn’t know if this will be his last season as manager, but if so, expect at least another special day.
July 19, the day of the 92nd All-Star Game, which was played at Dodger Stadium for the first time since 1980.
Baker, who spent eight years at the Dodgers, helped lead them to the 1981 World Series, and wears number 12 in honor of former great Dodgers Tommy Davis, will lead the All-American All-Star Team.
“I was definitely thinking about it,” Darren said. “I know how special this is going to be for my dad, and obviously I’d like to go.
“But it could be a bit of a weird situation.”
You know, Darren can play all the Premier League stars in his match at the same time.
“It doesn’t matter,” Dusty said, “because we just shared together this spring, nothing will be higher than that. I know it was an amazing time with the lockout, and everything was so rushed in the end, but the time we spent together, father and son alone, is something I will never forget. ”
Darren said, “It was perfect.”