WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — If Dusty Baker hears a comment about a pleasant candle scent from his office, there is a good chance a candle could be coming to the person who noticed. This occurs with wine and a variety of other products Baker ends up distributing throughout the season. He is in perpetual Santa Claus mode.
Baker is aware, in touch and still ambitious at 67 years old. He filled the Washington Nationals with a different air last season, his first in Washington as manager. Many veterans praised him. The youngsters listened to him. They won 95 games. Only one team won more — the World Series champion Chicago Cubs — before a first-round stall in the playoffs.
Baker is also at that point of kicking aside worry about his personal future. He has preferences, of course, ones that are still rooted in the main reason why he continues to manage baseball teams — to win the World Series. But, he knows there’s only so much he can control. He knows 50 years in professional baseball is rare. He knows that anyone in charge operating with one year remaining on their deal to be is referred to as a “lame duck.” Baker also knows he doesn’t care about that label in this, his final season under contract.
“I don’t look too far in the future,” Baker said Tuesday. “A guy who had cancer almost 15 years ago. Back then, it looked like I didn’t really have a future. Then a guy that had a stroke five years ago. I’ve just learned not to look too far into the future. I read these books about enjoy today and stuff like that. I’ve been in this situation more times than any manager in baseball — almost. I don’t even look at it as a lame duck. I’m past lame.
“I’m confident in my abilities and God leads my path, so therefore, I don’t worry. At this point, I think I’d like to manage some more. But when I got sent home in my last job, I was planning on managing some more. Life was good during that period also. One thing: Life goes on whether I’m here or you’re here or not. Time stops for nobody. I’m just going to enjoy my time here. I feel very fortunate to be in this situation in this new stadium with a lot of energy and excitement and a good team.”
He arrived in West Palm Beach on Feb. 12. Baker said he would have arrived earlier, but his son, Darren, had his 18th birthday Feb. 11.
“That was something that meant a lot to me and my family and him,” Baker said. “I remember, when he was born, I was nervous about when he was coming because back in those days, we’d always leave on the 15th — the day after Valentine’s day.”
The last time Baker was out of work was 2014. He spent that year and the next with his family. Baker worked around the house, started a business and watched his daughter get married. The time away seems to have told him if he ends up there again, he’ll be able to make good of it.
Though, before that happens, Baker remains desperate for one more World Series win. His current contract only allows him a single chance to do it.
• Todd Dybas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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