In the wake of a heartbreaking World Series loss to the Angels, San Francisco Giants manager Dusty Baker now faces questions concerning whether or not he will be back with the club next Spring. If Baker and Giants management cannot agree to terms, the skipper certainly has another job waiting for him. But not necessarily managing in the big leagues ? instead as director of a children’s daycare center.
Bringing new meaning to the term youth movement, Baker and several other Giants players and coaches made the decision to host their young children in the dugout during crucial games this postseason. On more than one occasion, it appeared that the Giants were forced to divert attention away from the games in order to baby-sit their rambunctious, albeit convivial offspring during the Series.
Darren Baker, Dusty’s three-year-old son, immediately captured the hearts of baseball fans everywhere with his baggy uniform, oversized Giants helmet and toothy grin.
But on several occasions, Darren and some of his batboy buddies ended up doing more harm than good while stationed in the dugout with their dads. In the seventh inning of Game 5, Darren, who was running across the plate to retrieve a bat, had to be snatched up by San Francisco first baseman J.T. Snow to avoid being steamrolled by David Bell at home. Darren, who enjoyed racing against the son of shortstop Shawon Dunston to gather bats, interfered with another play the previous night as well.
The Giants dugout, which second baseman Jeff Kent claimed accommodated as many as a half dozen children at some points, looked more like McDonalds Playland than it did a major league bench. Gatorade jugs filled with apple juice, the “Seventh Inning Nap” and a “timeout” seat in the bullpen between behemoths Robb Nen and Jason Christiansen for troublemakers seemed to be in the cards had the Giants played more games.
While a major league dugout is no place for a tyke to play during the game, there are certain circumstances when it is appropriate for children to be in the clubhouse or on the field.
As a gesture to honor the memory of the late Darryl Kile and to show respect for his grieving family, the St. Louis Cardinals invited Kile’s five-year-old son Kannon into the dugout this postseason for the last three games of the NLCS. Kannon appeared to have a grand ol’ time, exchanging high fives with players in the dugout and running the bases after the games had ended. Surely giving Kannon this gift meant a great deal to him and his family, and allowed the Cardinals organization a chance to express its love for a fallen brother.
On opening day, the Arizona Diamondbacks were awarded the World Series rings from their victory over the Yankees in the 2001 championship. Diamondbacks pitcher Curt Schilling was slated to start and thus was warming up in the bullpen while his teammates’ names were called before they received the jewelry. Because Schilling was unavailable to take part in the pre-game ceremony, his oldest son Gehrig sprinted out of the dugout to receive the ring on his father’s behalf.
Previously unaware of the plan, the elder Schilling stopped and watched as his six-year-old boy ran up the dugout steps and onto the field to accept the gift. Later Schilling told reporters that the moment was one of the proudest of his entire life, as well as one of the few times he had ever cried on a baseball field.
Commissioner Bud Selig has already said that new rules will be put into place for next season regarding who can and can’t be in the dugout during a game. This is perhaps the only sensible idea that Selig has had all year.
Giving a young child the thrill of setting foot on a major league ballfield is a gift that all teams should be capable of giving. But extenuating circumstances such as Kile’s aside, once that first pitch is thrown, playtime is over. Kids should be cheering on their fathers from the stands, while others take care of food, bathroom breaks and math homework.
After Kenny Lofton flew out to end Game 7, television cameras zoomed in on Darren Baker, tears streaming down his chubby cheeks as his father carried him down the clubhouse steps. And while the emotional scene was certainly very moving, it proved once and for all why a small child should not be in the dugout during a game ? there’s no crying in baseball.
Gerton can be reached at email@example.com.