Dusty, Astros prep for stylish visit to the White House

August 5th, 2023

This story was excerpted from Brian McTaggart’s Astros Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

Monday’s trip to the White House won’t be the first for Astros manager Dusty Baker, which should come as zero surprise for the most interesting man in baseball. From Dennis Hopper to Jimi Hendrix to John F. Kennedy Jr., Baker has crossed paths with many musicians, actors, politicians -- and yes, even U.S. Presidents -- in his life.

Baker was invited to the White House in December 2016 by former President Barack Obama while the Winter Meetings were being held in Washington, D.C. -- in the final few weeks of Obama’s presidency.

“I got a call on my cell phone and it was somebody from the President’s office, and I thought it was a buddy of mine pulling jokes on me,” Baker said. “I said, ‘How did you get my number?’ So [Obama] called me back. I thought I recognized his voice.”

The pair had met several years earlier while Baker was managing the Cubs and Obama was a senator from Illinois. Baker invited Obama to the house he was staying at in Spring Training for a barbecue, along with former Major League player Gary Matthews, a friend of Baker’s. Michelle Obama and Matthews’ wife were also friends. Baker said he served the Obamas mac and cheese, collard greens, cornbread, ribs and hot links.

“I helped him campaign a couple of times,” Baker said. “I try to stay out of politics.”

The Astros, who are off on Monday before opening a series in Baltimore, will send a contingent of about 110 people to the White House, including owner Jim Crane, team executives, players, coaches and other ancillary officials, to meet with President Joe Biden in the East Room at 1 p.m. ET/12 p.m. CT. Of those, 36 are players and coaches who were on last year’s team, including retired catcher Jason Castro. The Astros extended invitations to players who are currently on the team but weren’t on the team last year, but they declined.

“I can’t wait,” outfielder said. “I’ve never been there, obviously, and it’s going to be cool to meet the President and cool to see the White House. I’m looking forward to seeing what we do. It’s going to be cool to see everyone and get to enjoy being World Series champions.”

The trip to the White House will also be the second for , and , who visited for the first time in March 2018 after the Astros won the '17 World Series. Verlander was a late addition to this year’s list of attendees after the Astros re-acquired him in a trade with the Mets on Tuesday.

“It’s one of those cool moments that we don’t get to have that often,” Verlander said. “You celebrate a world championship and this is part of it, an extenuation of it. It’s a perk for sure, an added bonus that we didn’t know that was happening [prior to Tuesday].”

In fact, the trip was so unexpected for Verlander that he had to scramble to get a suit.

“It’s gold,” Verlander said. “I think that’s appropriate for winning a championship.”