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Recess Is Over, Children

Baker is told by official to keep a much closer eye on his batboy son

October 26, 2002|Mike DiGiovanna | Times Staff Writer

Darren Baker, the cute and cuddly 3-year-old son of San Francisco Giant Manager Dusty Baker who was nearly trampled near home plate in the seventh inning of Game 5 Thursday night in Pacific Bell Park, will be back in the Giants' dugout as a batboy for Game 6 tonight in Edison Field, but with a short leash.

Baker's mother scolded Dusty after the game, and Baker's wife urged Dusty to keep Darren in the dugout, but the admonishment with the highest impact came in a telephone call to Baker on Friday from Sandy Alderson, Major League Baseball's executive vice president of operations.

"He's going to be allowed to be a batboy this weekend," said Baker, whose team is 8-0 with Darren as batboy and doesn't want to mess with baseball superstition. "But I have to monitor him a little closer."

According to Alderson, baseball has no uniform rules prohibiting kids of any age from serving as batboys -- each team sets its own policy. The Angels, for instance, do not employ any batboys who are under 18.

The Giant dugout, on the other hand, has resembled a day-care center at times.

The young sons of Barry Bonds (Nikolai), Jeff Kent (Hunter), J.T. Snow (Shane), Shawon Dunston (Shawon Jr.) and Baker have served as batboys in recent months, and it's common for three or four of them to be in the Giant dugout during playoff games.

"We don't intend to prohibit it," Alderson said. "But, on the other hand, I'm sure even Dusty would agree great care is appropriate for someone of [Darren's] age under those circumstances. I'm sure that care will exist and had been arranged, and [Thursday] night was a one-time occurrence."

In other words, if it happens again ...

"They'll probably address it sometime at the winter meetings," Baker said. "There will probably be some pros and cons and some rules and regulations.... I'm just hoping that they don't come up with some Darren Baker rule that prohibits kids from being in the dugout, from being able to do these things."

The Angels were concerned enough about the potential safety and liability issues surrounding a serious accident involving the young batboys that they placed a call to Alderson on Friday afternoon. But they intend to leave the issue in baseball's hands.

"It's cute, and I'm sure it's a thrill for the kids," said Kevin Uhlich, the Angels' senior vice president of baseball operations. "But that could have been a dangerous situation."

Baker said neither he nor the parents of the other Giant batboys have ever signed a waiver releasing the Giants, another team or Major League Baseball of liability in case of a catastrophic injury involving a batboy.

"Nobody's gonna sue nobody," Baker said. "That's just our litigious society at work. We don't think that way. We're more conscious of foul balls going into the dugout and getting them into safe spots."

Little Darren Baker found himself in a precarious spot Thursday night. With Snow on second and David Bell on first, Lofton smacked a triple off the top of the right-center field wall.

As Snow cruised into home, Darren came to the plate to retrieve Lofton's bat. With Bell barreling toward the plate and Angel catcher Bengie Molina preparing for a possible play, Snow, as he crossed the plate, reached back and scooped Darren up by the lapels of his little Giant jacket and pulled him out of harm's way before carrying him back to the dugout.

"The Lone Ranger would have been proud of J.T.," Baker said. "It looked like he scooped him up from his horse."

Baker, however, was not real proud of the parenting skills he exhibited on the play. He had his eye on Lofton's hit and not on his son.

"We usually have a lot of guys who are keeping an eye on the [kids]," Baker said. "[Thursday] night was a strange situation where [Darren] was having a brief argument with another kid, because he really likes Kenny Lofton. Certain kids like to pick up a certain guy's bat, or certain kids like to pick up their father's bat.

"Darren really likes Lofton. Being competitive, he and this kid were arguing. He figured he was going to get the jump on the kid to go get the bat. Usually he stands behind me. I tell him to go just before he goes out. This time, he was going to get a jump on everybody. We were all watching the ball; we thought it was going to be a home run.

"It's not going to happen again. I'm hoping that him and other kids aren't prohibited from being in the dugout [because of this].

"I'm not proud of it. I don't like seeing my son all over TV in that light. Some people think it's cute, but I don't. I don't like watching him in the paper. He told me he's tired of being in the paper himself."

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