Dusty Baker is far more than a press conference star and world-class name-dropper. He’s an award-winning manager, a former standout player, a leader of men, a published author and so on.
But he’s also a press conference star and world-class name dropper. And so his introduction at Nats Park Thursday afternoon featured Baker mentioning one A-list name after another, one fantastic anecdote after another. A colleague, sitting next to me, said he would need 7,000 words for his planned Baker feature. Another mentioned once needing to pinch himself to stay awake during Matt Williams sessions; that won’t likely be a problem in this new regime.
I tried to keep a list of the names Baker dropped on Thursday: mine is far from comprehensive, but it includes Barack Obama, Stevie Wonder, Nelson Mandela, the Doors, Al Attles, Bill Russell, Bill Walsh, Barry Bonds, Jeff Kent, Henry Aaron, Sammy Sosa, Will Clark, Joey Votto and Ken Griffey Jr. I mean, that’s a good list for an entire season. Baker knocked it out in 35 minutes.
He was even quotable when he was trying on his uniform. “My son wants me to wear a flat bill; I can’t do it,” he said, breaking in his new Nats cap. Then he showed off his new jersey.
“My mom used to be a model, she used to go like this,” he said, moving his hips in a manner few Nats managers have ever moved their hips.
Dusty Baker in his new gear. Did a little runway strut. "My mom used to be a model. She used to go like this." pic.twitter.com/meVrJAkBxX
— Dan Kolko (@masnKolko) November 5, 2015
We will flood the zone with Dusty Baker coverage throughout the day; for now, though, here are my eight favorite quotes/anecdotes/bits-of-wisdom Baker offered during his first day with the Nats.
Dusty Baker on Washington
“I do know quite a few politicians, from the president down,” he said. “It’s a perfect fit because of the culture here, the educational system here, I’d like to turn my son on to the diversity that’s here. Last night I went to a [Wizards] game and I saw people from all over the country and all over the world. I used to call myself back in the day International Bake, even though I wasn’t international yet. Now I have an opportunity to be international and feel as such. I’m used to diversity, and this is probably the most diverse setting and the most diverse town that I’ve been in.”
Dusty Baker on talent
“I asked a friend of mine — Al Attles with the Warriors — I said Al, how come I always get teams and have to build them up? And he said Dusty, you do more with less. And I told him that I was ready to do more with more. I’d like to try that.”
Dusty Baker on loyalty
“Last time [the Nats hired a manager] I really didn’t want the job. I wanted to let people know that I was still interested in being in baseball. And the reason I didn’t want the job is because Matt Williams had already talked to me about different things, and Matt was one of my prized pupils when I was a batting coach and a manager. And so actually I was glad that they didn’t offer me the job, because I didn’t want to cut Matt out. And so the main [reason] I contacted the Nationals was just to show people that I was not retired.”
Dusty Baker on love
“I talked to the great Bill Russell … and I talked to Bill Walsh, like I said before, and they told me that a team has to be close. … And I can bring closeness to a team. And they said that love was the key. And I was really shocked that they told me that. We talk about love nowadays, it’s like, you know, talking crazy. The thing about it is I want to get this team together, as soon as possible, from top to bottom. Because the great teams I’ve been on and organizations that I’ve been in, from top to bottom, everyone believes.”
Dusty Baker on adapting and changing with the times
“Well, I was pretty good before, you know? Adaptation is no problem for me; my friends call me a chameleon, because they think I can adapt to any place, any time, anywhere. And so I would like to think that I transcend different generations, like some musicians. I mean, Stevie Wonder still sounds good. And The Doors might sound even better.”
Dusty Baker on existential voids
“I had a burning desire to succeed in my heart that wasn’t filled in my life [without baseball]. You’re going to have voids in your life. I mean, you can live without them. But I’d rather not.”
Dusty Baker on Bryce Harper and stardom
“Hey man, this guy can play. I mean, he can really play. I love watching him play. And the thing about it is, I’m not really intimidated or anything by stars, because I was a star. I wasn’t as bright a star as some of these guys, but I was a star. I tell them I don’t care how much money you make — don’t plan on giving me any of your money, I’m not giving you any of mine. But when the game starts, it’s not about money, it’s about whether I kick your butt or you kick mine, it’s as simple as that. … I wasn’t as good a player as Bryce Harper. But I came into the league, my first year, I hit behind Hank Aaron, and I thought I was the cat’s meow at that time. And I got kind of jacked up a couple times by the older guys. One time I had somebody’s hand around my throat, because I was kind of a little cocky, too. But you learn.”
Dusty Baker on aging
“I don’t think of myself as 66 years old. I don’t know how old I am sometimes. It really doesn’t matter. Because the way I look at it — not sounding cocky or nothing — but I don’t see a whole bunch of dudes out there that look better than me.”