SAN FRANCISCO -- Dusty Baker's return to San Francisco, in a playoff setting, is a storyline too good to ignore. Predictably, scribes covering this National League Division Series between the Giants and Baker's Cincinnati Reds have tackled the topic again and again. And again.
It was, after all, 10 years ago when Baker capped a 10-season managerial run in the Bay Area by guiding the Giants to the NL pennant, followed by an epic World Series that ended in an Angels championship in seven games. But there was a subplot to the Fall Classic that year that few have forgotten, especially considering the subject of that storyline is still very visible at AT&T Park this weekend.
Remember Darren Baker, Dusty's adorable batboy son from that 2002 World Series? Well, Darren isn't so little anymore -- he's 13 and looks to have inherited his dad's build -- and he's not a batboy anymore, thanks to a famous home-plate incident from which the "Darren Baker rules" were born.
Young Baker, as you may recall, was an enthusiastic bat-picker-upper in 2002 for his dad's Giants team. He was always the first to rush to the plate, and for a 3-year-old, he took direction amazingly well. Things took a bizarre turn, however, and had it not been for the quick thinking of Giants first baseman J.T. Snow, this all could have ended much more catastrophically.
Darren Baker ran to the plate to retrieve a bat belonging to Kenny Lofton, as he had done dozens of times before, but by doing so, he ran right into a dangerous line of traffic. Snow scored on Lofton's triple, and right behind him was David Bell, running full speed behind Snow and heading straight for home -- and Darren Baker.
Snow grabbed Baker by the back of his jersey and snatched him up seconds before he would have been pummeled by Bell. After the game, Dusty Baker had two parties to contend with -- his mother, horrified while watching the incident unfold on her TV screen, and Major League Baseball, which soon put the kibosh on little kids serving as batboys.
The guidelines -- unofficially dubbed "the Darren Baker rule" -- state that batboys must be at least 14 to serve in the role. That means that even all of these years later, the younger Baker is still not old enough to apply for the job.
Sitting next to his dad on the podium during the daily Q&A session with the media on Saturday, Darren Baker smiled sheepishly while listening to his father field questions regarding his role in the '02 World Series.
Dusty's take? "I don't think he will want to be a batboy anyway," he said.
Pressed further on if he appreciated the "Darren Baker rule," Dusty shook his head no.
"It was something that I just think they took it a little bit too far," he said.
From Baker's vantage point, having kids of players in the dugout as batboys is something that keeps the youngsters interested and involved in the game. And that's important, he said, citing several kids who were batboys with Darren back in the day who have gone on to be pretty good ballplayers in their own right.
"I'm proud that two of my batboys at that time, Ellis Burks' son is about to go to college or possibly get drafted," Baker said. "Juan Lopez, one of the batboys, is playing with Kansas City and Shawon Dunston's son is playing with the Cubs. This is how you perpetuate the games by letting these young men and women come around the field to be around their fathers."
Baker remembers a time when everywhere you looked, there were Boones (Ray, Bob, Bret, Aaron), Bells (Gus, Buddy, David), Griffeys (Ken, Ken Jr.) and Bonds (Bobby, Barry).
"They were out there with their fathers, you know what I mean?" Baker said.