It took 15 years, but Darren Baker will finally be encouraged to hang around home plate. The Washington Nationals selected Dusty Baker’s son, the same one who was nearly involved in a collision at the plate during the 2002 World Series, in the 27th round of the 2017 Major League Baseball draft on Wednesday.
— Amanda Comak (@acomak) June 14, 2017
Though his professional career hasn’t started, Darren has already carved out a role in baseball lore. During the seventh inning of Game 5 of the 2002 World Series, he, was nearly run over at home plate after a two-run single from San Francisco Giants outfielder Kenny Lofton.
The 3-year-old Darren was serving as the bat boy for the Giants, and wandered too close to home plate in the middle of the play. As a charging David Bell attempted to score, Darren was pulled to safety by Giants first baseman J.T. Snow, who had safely crossed home plate before Darren came out on the field.
As a result of that play, MLB created a rule requiring all bat boys to be at least 14 years of age.
A lot has changed since then. Darren, now 18, emerged as a standout outfielder at Jesuit High School in Carmichael, California. He’s already committed to Cal, though Dusty suggested that could change based on how high Darren was selected in the draft.
Even if Darren doesn’t sign, the gesture could say something about Dusty’s current standing in the organization. The manager is in the final year of his contract, and ownership has yet to offer him an extension. Baker has publicly commented on his desire to remain with the team, but believes he deserves more money. He took much less to go to Washington two years ago. Drafting Darren could be the organization’s attempt at mending that relationship.
That could play into Darren’s decision. If Dusty will be with the team for the foreseeable future, Darren may be more willing to join the club. Though it will likely take him a number of years before Darren is major-league ready, the opportunity to be managed by his dad would be special.
Darren’s story from the 2002 World Series will continue to stick with him no matter what he decides. Everyone involved is well aware of that. Darren and Snow even re-created the moment during the team’s 10-year reunion in 2012.
That may not be the case when the 20-year reunion comes around. By then, Darren might not have time to engage in hijinks before the game. He might be too busy preparing to play in one.
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