SAN FRANCISCO — Minus his old signature toothpick, Cincinnati’s Dusty Baker leaned against the batting cage intently watching his players just as he did for a decade managing the Giants.
Baker is back in the Bay Area for the playoffs, 10 years after he came so close to winning a World Series with San Francisco.
“Well, I really don’t have much choice,” Baker said when asked if it’s a strange coincidence. “I feel comfortable here. I think my team likes coming here. This is a good town.”
Sometimes Baker still feels the sting of that World Series near-miss, even now, two managerial stops removed from his first career gig as a skipper in the place he has long called home.
Today, he figures to be cheered by 40,000-plus fans at AT&T Park who still love him – “some of ‘em,” he quipped – when the NL Central champion Reds open their best-of-five division series against the Giants.
Just like the Reds, the Giants clinched early and had plenty of time to get everything situated and lined up for the postseason.
“I’ll be honest, I like this clinching early thing,” said Giants manager Bruce Bochy, whose 2010 World Series championship team clinched in Game 162.
These days, the 63-year-old Baker is conserving energy after a recent 11-game absence forced by a mini-stroke and irregular heartbeat. He just rejoined the Reds on Monday in St. Louis.
Baker was away for the NL Central clincher, and Homer Bailey’s no-hitter at Pittsburgh last Friday night.
He’s ready to go now – with no plans to change a thing about the way he operates during a game on the playoff stage.
“I’m feeling like a grateful man,” Baker said from his spot at the cage.