He's not 3 years old anymore.No, Darren Baker is nearly all grown up at 18, and we know as much because this middle infielder from Carmichael, Calif., will take his considerable baseball skills either to Cal Berkeley or to whoever picks him next week during the 2017 MLB Draft.:: 2017
He's not 3 years old anymore.
No, Darren Baker is nearly all grown up at 18, and we know as much because this middle infielder from Carmichael, Calif., will take his considerable baseball skills either to Cal Berkeley or to whoever picks him next week during the 2017 MLB Draft.
:: 2017 MLB Draft coverage ::
"I'm taller than my dad was when he was my age, and he's 6-foot-3, and my sister is 6-foot, and I wear size 13 shoe, but I feel like I have some filling out to do," Darren said, referring to his 5-foot-11, 160 pound frame when we chatted the other day about his past, present and future.
In case you didn't know, Darren's dad is Dusty Baker, who spent 19 years as an accomplished Major League player before managing the Giants, Cubs, Reds and Nationals. He's now in his 22nd season as a skipper (second with the Nats).
So let's get this out of the way: Darren can't remember anything that happened in San Francisco during Game 5 of the 2002 World Series.
That's when Darren raced to grab the bat of Kenny Lofton as a 3-year-old bat boy with tunnel vision for his father's Giants team against the Angels. Moments later, those watching at the ballpark and on national television gasped, and then they sighed with relief after Darren was yanked away at home plate by J.T. Snow to keep the youngster from getting trampled by David Bell charging down the line.
"The only thing I know about that is when I see a video or a picture of it in a newspaper," Darren said. "In terms of my own memory, I have no memory of it at all. I wish I could remember that, but I don't. It's weird."
Actually, this is weirder. Darren's first memory of something related to Major League Baseball came earlier that same 2002 season. Not only that, but you would think what comes next would rank a distant second among memories for a 3-year-old behind nearly suffering bumps and bruises (or worse) at home plate during a World Series game.
Instead, Darren went from amnesia regarding Snow's heroics to remembering every detail of his first MLB-related memory, starting with how his mother, Melissa, picking him up from school along the way to a Giants home game. He recalled the Cardinals were in town. He recalled sitting behind the Giants' dugout when this guy in the on-deck circled looked his way.
Darren almost giggled over what happened next.
"Barry Bonds was the guy on deck, and he turned to me, and he gave me a little wave," Darren said. "We had a conversation with just our hand motions, but that's probably my first memory at any ballpark."
Before long, Darren had verbal conversations with Bonds and other baseball stars in Dusty's world, ranging from Barry Larkin to Ken Griffey Jr. to a slew of others. They gave the younger Baker more than a few tips along the way, but nobody surpassed the older Baker when it came to providing Darren with advice regarding baseball and just living.
"Something he always tells me is, shoulder to shoulder, because when I'm going bad [at the plate], I tend to be a little quick by flying open with my front shoulder," Darren said, even though his slumps were short-lived during his last couple of years at Carmichael's Jesuit High School.
After he hit .386 as a second baseman during his junior season, Darren switched to shortstop as a senior, and he nearly batted .400 (.396). Darren said he's getting closer to that "one, big growth spurt like most kids go through," and when he does, he said he'll likely follow in his father's spike steps as an outfielder.
No question, Darren knows much about Dusty's playing career with the Braves, Dodgers, A's and Giants. Before the older Baker retired following the 1984 season, he had two All-Star Game appearances, a World Series ring after multiple trips to the postseason, a National League Gold Glove Award and a couple of NL Silver Slugger Awards.
"He doesn't make me, but I watch video of him from his playing days, because I enjoy that kind of stuff," Darren said. "I kind of see a lot of myself when I'm watching those videos, especially when he played for the Braves [during the late 1960s and early '70s], because during his Braves days, I can see we have the same body type, and we have a similar game. Then when he got to the Dodgers, he was definitely a five-tool guy.
"If he played in a different era, maybe he would have gotten a little bit more recognition as a player. Some of the games he had against the Yankees during the World Series, those were classics. I really do think that was baseball's peak. If I could be half the player he was, I'd feel pretty good."
Which brings us to Dusty telling his son about living.
As somebody who has dealt often with the older Baker since the late 1970s, I nodded while Darren said the following: "From a non-baseball perspective, the best advice that my dad has ever given to me is that 'you should always give more than you receive,' and that's something he tells me a lot," Darren said. "He's an extremely generous guy. He would give you his shirt off his back if you really need it. He tells me to always be open to helping other people out, and that everything will all work out in the end. I've learned through him that karma pays off. If you help somebody when they really need it, it will come full circle."
As for Darren's future, he has this vision, and since the younger Baker admires the older one, you know where I'm going. Darren wishes to become an extension of his father as a Major League standout and as an eternal philanthropist.
"Definitely, 100 percent, I want to play in the big leagues," Darren said. "I don't want to be one of those guys who gets there and who is just happy to be there. I really want to be a top-tier player one day. Since I was a little kid, that's the only thing I've wanted to do. That's the only thing I picture myself doing. But after my playing days -- and hopefully, it's a long career that ends up in Cooperstown someday -- I'd consider getting into managing like my dad. I also feel like I have enough character and charisma to pull off an announcing job."
The older Baker did that, too.
Terence Moore is a columnist for MLB.com.