Baker a leader in prostate cancer awareness

June 17th, 2017
Nationals manager Dusty Baker battled prostate cancer but has been cancer-free for more than 15 years. (Getty)

NEW YORK -- Every 20 minutes, a man in the United States dies of prostate cancer.

Dusty Baker could have been one of those men. Diagnosed with the malicious disease in December 2001, Baker has been cancer-free for more than 15 years. And for the second consecutive year, all MLB players are wearing specially designed uniforms and caps on Father's Day weekend to raise awareness and funds for the fight against prostate cancer. The uniforms incorporate baby blue into the clubs' regular logos, while the caps are highlighted by a blue shadow-tech heather crown and graphite visor.

MLB plans to donate all royalty payments from the sales of Father's Day Weekend caps and jerseys to the Prostate Cancer Foundation and Stand Up To Cancer.

"I thought it was pretty cool," the Nationals' manager said of MLB's uniform endeavor.

:: Father's Day 2017 ::

The sport has several projects that raise awareness for prostate cancer, perhaps most notably through the Home Run Challenge led by Michael Milken, who Baker has worked with to speak out against the disease. On Saturday, before the Nationals took on the Mets, Baker detailed how he leaned on fellow survivor Joe Torre, MLB chief baseball officer and a spokesman for the Prostate Cancer Foundation. He spoke with Torre about medical advice, an example of the network that exists within baseball for those who have battled (or are battling) prostate cancer.

Baker went on to tell a story about a friend of his in California who had his prostate-specific antigen level, a key indicator in determining whether one may be at risk for prostate cancer, taken at Baker's behest. It turned out his friend's levels were high, but doctors were able to treat it.

"Awareness is the key," Baker said. "Awareness and getting [tested] as early as you can, because I'm 15 going on 16 years [cancer-free] now. And I'm thinking if something happened to me at that time, my son was 3 years old.

"The most frightening, anxious moments that I had [were] during my six- and three-month checkups," Baker continued. "Because you always wonder."

Becoming father changed Gio's perspective

Baker's wife had lost her mother to breast cancer the year before Baker's diagnosis. Not wanting to lose her husband as well, she encouraged him to seek aggressive treatment.

"Thank God for modern medicine," he said.

That constant wondering was one of the reasons his young son, Darren, was at his side during the 2002 World Series. Baker was unsure how many chances he would have to create memories with his son.

Baker retreated to a healing center in Hawaii to pray and meditate following the news he had cancer. There, he realized how fortunate he was for the early detection of his prostate cancer.

"I just knew that everything was going to be all right," Baker said, "But I caught it early."