The last time Dusty Baker was in the World Series, his son nearly got run down.
Darren Baker, then 3 years old, was helping his dad’s San Francisco team as a very small batboy when Dusty led the Giants to the 2002 World Series.
The younger Baker came out to retrieve a bat during Game 5. The only problem was the play was still going on, and there was the possibility of a play at the plate. J.T. Snow scored for the Giants, then scooped up Darren and carried him to safety as the trailing runner and ball were both headed for the plate.
Now, as Dusty Baker leads another team — the fifth he’s taken to the MLB postseason — back to the Fall Classic, Darren will be watching, having just completed his first pro season in the Washington Nationals organization.
“Time passes very quickly,” the elder Baker said. “And we are remembering that time. Everybody remembers that except him. He’s the only one that doesn’t remember it. People remind him of it all the time. Sometimes he gets tired of talking about it, but it is part of my history, Giants history, baseball history, and his history. Now he’s trying to make his own history with the Nationals as a player, and I’m just glad that he was able to be here for this.
“I got to see him before the game. I think this is only the second time that he hasn’t been able to be in the dugout because he was in the dugout in other organizations. People sent me pictures of him when he was small with the Cubs and a little bit older with the Reds and a little bit older with Washington.”
Baker, a true baseball lifer, will be looking for his first world championship as a manager, having been brought in by the Astros to clean up the aftermath of the sign-stealing scandal that tainted Houston’s 2017 title.
The Astros are back in the World Series, and the prospect of getting Baker a ring is the only thing keeping the nation from rooting against Houston this time around.
Meanwhile, Houston’s opponent has its own father-son story, thanks to another baseball lifer at the helm.
Brian Snitker has been with the Braves organization for 44 years and has managed at every level of the minor leagues — more than 2,700 games — before he finally got the chance to take over the big club.
“I definitely think there was a time where he thought the ship had sailed,” Snitker’s son Troy said of his father’s MLB ambitions. “I know it was a dream of his to be able to do this and be able to manage in the big leagues, and I think he always knew that he could do it. But I definitely think there was a point where he probably didn’t think it was going to happen anymore, which makes this very special.”
The elder Snitker will be facing his son in the Series. Troy is a hitting instructor on Baker’s Astros’ staff. Despite growing up in the oldest of old-school baseball households and serving on another old-school manager’s staff, Troy has incorporated the analytical movement that the Astros helped popularize.
“I love the fact that he’s meshed because I raised him in a dugout, on a bus, on the field a long, long time ago before analytics were ever invented,” the elder Snitker said. “I think he’s a good blend of the old-school way of doing things and he’s very open and gets all the new information that’s out there. I think it’s a good mix.”
While the two men being in opposite dugouts make it hard on mom and sister — the two Snitker women are busy trying to find a way to wear both jerseys to the games — Brian and Troy have embraced the chance to share this trip to baseball’s pinnacle.
“I remember going to spring training really young,” Troy said. “I remember going to old West Palm Beach back when the Braves were there. I remember going in the clubhouse and seeing Chipper (Jones). I think that was probably around ’93, ’94 when I was young. My first concrete memories were that summer in Durham in ’95 (when Brian managed the Bulls), which was my first summer being at the field with him when he dragged me in every day. But I have a lot of special memories of spending a summer at the baseball field.”
Now, fathers and sons will be spending one autumn in the same place. And, as the Bakers learned 19 years ago, anything can happen.