Darren Baker, the son of Nationals skipper Dusty Baker and probably best known for almost being trampled at home plate during the 2002 World Series, was selected by the Nationals on Wednesday in the 27th round of the MLB Draft. We’re all so very old.
Darren, who recently graduated from Jesuit High School outside of Sacramento, told Deadspin that being picked by the Nationals was a surprise to him and his family, including his dad.
He joins the club of pro-ball sons of former major leaguers, but Baker’s case is definitely a little different than that of say, Luis Gonzalez’s son, Jake.
If you’ll remember, in the 2002 World Series, Darren was a toddler acting as a bat boy (who thought this was a good idea?) and nearly got run over by J.T. Snow and David Bell as they ran across home plate on a Kenny Lofton triple to deep center, and it was only the quick work of Snow that prevented disaster.
It would have been a horrifying sight, but instead it became a kinda cute, iconic moment:
Darren, 18, worked out once for the Nats, but said his discussions with the Indians, Cubs, and Brewers were much more advanced than with his dad’s club. Nonetheless, draft decisions are typically made on the fly, and Darren wound up getting the call from Washington.
He had to wait a little while to tell Dusty; the Nats made their pick only a few minutes before first pitch in the afternoon game against the Braves. Darren described his dad’s reaction as “shocked,” which runs counter to the grief Darren has caught from those who saw his selection as a nepotism pick.
Maybe—probably—Darren’s family tie to the club influenced the Nats’ decision. But it doesn’t necessarily look like the club was in cahoots with Dusty, at least from Darren’s point of view. Darren says he’s heard “the dad stuff,” as he calls it, but is a skilled ballplayer in his own right.
In his senior year, Darren hit .396/.476/.483/.960 with 12 stolen bases, according to data from MaxPreps. He’s a lanky kid (5-foot-11, 160 pounds), and says he gets a lot of comparisons to Dee Gordon. He played the infield in high school, and like many players his age, would like to remain there, but he says he’s still growing and knows he’ll probably be taller than his 6-foot dad.
Darren’s a Cal commit and plans to spend three years in school and then enter the draft again. Or, as he put it to one Twitter doubter:
The image of Darren as a tiny kid is one burned in the minds of baseball fans, but he says he can’t remember the 2002 World Series (he was three years old), and knows it only from the video and by hearing stories from everyone from his dad to random strangers. His life spared on the basepath, Darren says he owes much of his baseball IQ to growing up with the game.
He recalled an exchange he heard between Joey Votto and Jay Bruce—“I was just sitting there and they didn’t know I was listening”—in which Votto talked about the patterns he likes to observe, and after sitting and dissecting the opposing pitcher’s sequences, he went out and was able to predict every pitch he’d see.
Darren believes details like that are what give him an advantage; as a major league tagalong he was able to pick up things that his dad’s players had spent years learning, and if nothing else, keep them in mind while playing himself.
For now, Darren’s happy to spend a few years at Cal before going pro. He says it’s nice that he will be close to home, but not too close. He’ll be even closer to San Francisco—a few dozen miles from the ballpark where we first got a whiff of his, um, approach at the plate.
And in three years, when he’s satisfied with his time at Cal, what if the Giants come calling?
“If I went straight from Berkeley to the Giants... oh my gosh. I’ve always wanted to play for them for sure. For sure. That would be a dream come true. That would be surreal.”
By that time, we’ll be nearly 20 years out from that Angels-Giants World Series. Twenty. Congrats, you’re old.