SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Ten years after Darren Baker nearly got run over at home plate when he wandered into the World Series action, he's still not old enough to be a bat boy.
The 13 1/2-year-old son of Cincinnati Reds manager Dusty Baker is just fine with that, because these days he's a second baseman who appreciates watching the games to learn. He does plan to be bat boy for a few games in 2013 after turning the required 14 on Feb. 11.
"It was smart, because I was so young and maybe if another kid is young he doesn't know what to do compared to an older kid who kind of understands more," Baker said Saturday, sitting in the dugout taking in the quiet scene some five hours before first pitch between the Reds and Giants in their playoff opener. "Just parts of it, I remember a little bit of it when I got picked up at home plate. I remember Game 7 of the World Series. That's it. It went by so fast."
On a sunny October afternoon, Baker hopped around the dugout alone, leaned over the dugout rail and soaked in the atmosphere. Yes, he said, he misses it here — even if the memories have faded some. He ran inside to the clubhouse at one point to grab his camera, then returned to snap a photo of the Blue Angels flying overhead for fleet week festivities.
Baker rooted for Washington to win on the season's final day so the NL Central champion Reds would be the NL's No. 2 seed behind the East-winning Nationals and open the best-of-five playoffs at San Francisco. His dad managed the Giants from 1993-02.
It was here in October '02 when the then-toddler ran out to retrieve the bat of his favorite player — Kenny Lofton — in Game 5 of the World Series against the wild-card Angels. With David Bell charging home, San Francisco's J.T. Snow quickly scooped up the boy and kept him out of harm's way. After that, the "Darren Baker Rule," as it became known, was established to require that bat boys be at least 14 years old.
"I think it was for the best because I like watching the game more. It was fun bat-boying, but I'd rather learn and watch the game," Baker said. "I might do it once or twice (next year), but most of the time I'll be in the dugout watching."
Yet his father feels like maybe the decision was a little strong to keep kids out of the dugout. Even if dad knows full well his son no longer wants to be a full-time bat boy.