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Turtle power: Dusty's namesake takes big step

Animal named after Nationals manager released into ocean after months of rehab
MLB.com @JamalCollier

PHOENIX -- Dusty the turtle faced a long recovery when he first arrived to the Loggerhead Marinelife Center this past February. He was thin and covered in barnacles and leaches when he was found about a mile off shore, and a bit lethargic.

He had just been rescued when Dusty Baker came across the center after an impromptu visit during the Nationals manager's drive home from the club's Spring Training facility in West Palm Beach, Fla. Baker left such an impression on the staff at the center that they decided to name the turtle after him.

PHOENIX -- Dusty the turtle faced a long recovery when he first arrived to the Loggerhead Marinelife Center this past February. He was thin and covered in barnacles and leaches when he was found about a mile off shore, and a bit lethargic.

He had just been rescued when Dusty Baker came across the center after an impromptu visit during the Nationals manager's drive home from the club's Spring Training facility in West Palm Beach, Fla. Baker left such an impression on the staff at the center that they decided to name the turtle after him.

And after a five-month rehabilitation period, Dusty the turtle has fully recovered and was released into the ocean on Tuesday. A crowd gathered and cheered him on at Juno Beach as he returned to his natural habitat. Several Nats staff members were on hand, along with a turtle mascot wearing a Nationals hat.

Baker was thrilled to hear the news of Dusty's release, and he enthusiastically showed off the photos to his son, Darren. During Spring Training, Baker checked on the turtle as much as he could during his spare time, but the manager would regularly send his friends and visitors to Loggerhead Marinelife Center to check on Dusty. So he kept Dusty the turtle in his mind the past few months, considering Baker's connection to the animals.

Baker's love for turtles dates back to his diagnosis with prostate cancer about 15 years ago. He took a trip to Hawaii shortly thereafter, where he learned the Hawaiian word for turtle, Honu, that signifies "good luck, endurance and a long life."

And just like Baker fought back from his illness, Dusty the turtle did the same.

Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.

Washington Nationals