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October 6, 2021

Dusty Baker

Houston, Texas, USA

Minute Maid Park

Houston Astros

Workout Day Press Conference

Q. Dusty, how do you think Brantley looked in the outfield on Sunday? Do you kind of know what you're going to do left field-wise between him and Alvarez in the series?

DUSTY BAKER: He's looking good. He was looking pretty good. I just didn't want to tax him too much. He's been working out out there. We'll have the lineup for you shortly for Game 1 at least, and then it will go from there.

Q. It seems like yesterday you guys were waiting on Siri maybe to help shape your roster. Based on how he looked, are you any closer to any decisions?

DUSTY BAKER: Not really because naturally any young player, or any player, is going to say, hey, man, I'm okay their first time he goes to the playoffs. But we've got to continue to check him out. I wanted to see him off the machine at high velocity. You know, batting practice is one thing, but high velocity is something else.

He is in the running for one of the last roster spots on the team basically. So we'll exhaust every moment to try to find out. That could be a big spot. We'll probably make our decision probably sometime this evening maybe after practice.

Q. Now that you've been around Lance for a couple seasons, what impresses you the most about his makeup? He seems very modern, but also has a lot of throwback kind of player in him.

DUSTY BAKER: He's a son of a former player, so he grew up one way and grew up a different way in modern times, but you never really get rid of how you're taught as a kid or what influenced you or what you've learned. So he's a combination.

Lance is a joy and a pleasure to be around because you see the same Lance all the time. He's very confident. Sometimes he gets frustrated with himself because he knows how much more is in there. He's only going to get better.

As good as he is, there's still a lot more in there.

You see players that you think, hey, man, he's reached his ceiling. He might get a little bit better, but not a whole bunch. But this guy, he has a lot. He's a tremendous athlete, very confident, but very humble at the same time.

Q. Dusty, what's your confidence level in your team heading into this? You've been to so many postseason matchups. What's your confidence level right now in your ball club?

DUSTY BAKER: My confidence level, we haven't played a game yet. My confidence level is at full. It's at the top. I mean, my confidence level doesn't come from me. It comes from above. I'm one of the luckiest guys in the world. I was brought here for this, and we got a chance to do something great.

We can't worry about other people's confidence, level. They didn't pick us from the beginning. We've got to just go out and do our thing. These guys know how to do it. I know how to do it. I'm glad we're opening up at home.

Q. After how last year's playoff run was so odd with not getting to play at home and no fans, how much are you looking forward to actually managing a playoff game in front of these fans that you've grown to have a relationship with?

DUSTY BAKER: I'll tell you, it's awesome. Last year was great to get there, but it wasn't the same as previous years because nobody was there. I mean, you know what you're playing for, but it's a little different playing in front of cut-outs than it is in front of actual people. With the rain noise being piped in, it's a lot different than people yelling and screaming.

So, yeah, I'm looking forward to it. This is what baseball is all about. I hear guys talking all the time that you know how -- not on my team, but other teams as well, how they missed that. They miss the energy of people in the stands. They miss the noise. It's not just background noise. It's actual noise and electricity in the building, and that's why we play. I mean, we play because we love to play, but we love to make people happy by how we play.

Q. It's been a while since you managed against

Tony La Russa, but what do you think about him as a manager and going against him? What are some of your memories about just sort of the chess match with him?

DUSTY BAKER: He's in the Hall of Fame. You don't find many Hall of Famers that come back. Most of them are trying to get in, more or less coming back. I enjoy managing against Tony. The way I look at it, he's managing against me too. How come you didn't put it that way?

Q. I'll ask him later.

DUSTY BAKER: I'll be curious to hear what he says.

Q. Dusty, you obviously have a lot of guys with a lot of playoff experience on your roster, but there are some guys who have not been there, and if they make that roster, is there anything that you're going to have to say to them or tell them to prepare them for this experience?

DUSTY BAKER: No, there's nothing you can say to them to prepare them. Everybody in that room, no matter how much playoff experience they had, they had their first playoff experience as well as these guys here are going to have it. You just have to play the game the same.

Mike McCarron told me, and I'll probably tell him the same thing he told me, it's okay to be nervous. It's natural. Just don't be scared. That's what the whole thing's about.

I mean, it's a little bit different now for these kids than when we were coming up because especially kids that went to college. They've got the NCAA tournament. They've got the College World Series. They've got different things to -- you know, the USA today games and the perfect game and this game and that game. This is just a higher level from where they've already been.

You can't worry about making mistakes. You've just got to go play and be as natural as you can.

Q. Dusty, can you talk about what makes this team so special?

DUSTY BAKER: I don't know. I guess everything this team has been through; highs, lows, ups, downs, ins, outs. We've lost some -- they just keep on stepping. They lost Gerrit Cole. Verlander's hurt. We lost George Springer. I've seen teams get destroyed by that in a short period of time, but this team, we've still got some of the nucleus guys here, and they just keep on -- like I said, keep on stepping.

They expect to win. I don't hear them doing a bunch of talking. They just go out and play. These kind of guys, I like to be around because talk is cheap. You've just got to play.

Q. Some research uncovered that you and Tony played in one game together with the Braves at the end of the '71 season. I know you played in over 2,000 games, but do you have any recollection whatsoever of being a teammate of his for roughly a month?

DUSTY BAKER: I know they sent me back to AAA and kept him. That's what I remember. He was older than me. I think he was five years older than me, and they didn't want me sitting on the bench and to go back to play. I've used that with young guys sometimes. As a young player, you'd rather sit on the bench and make minimum salary than you would go back to the Minor Leagues and play. And at that time, the minimum salary was $15,000.

That, I don't know, almost $3,000 a month was damn near what I made the whole year in AAA. I remember I didn't want to go back. Actually, Hank Aaron was the one that sent me back, but that was actually the best thing to happen to me now that I'm looking back. At that time, it was the worst.

I remember Tony was a bonus baby. You know you read about coming out of high school, I guess, with the Charlie Finley, like you read on guys. I think they gave him $100,000. Then they gave me like $31,000 total. I was like... but being a 25th round draft choice, I had to think in my heart that I was better than a lot of them. So that was my story.

Q. Dusty, do you have anything you can share further on Zach Greinke today, how he's doing and what your expectations are going forward?

DUSTY BAKER: No, I haven't seen Zach yet, and I haven't talked to our trainers about him either. So I don't have anything.

Q. I'm just curious how you're processing all of this mentally, being another chance for you to get to the World Series. Basically the one thing that you don't have yet. Is there a different feeling about this opportunity or a different mindset or level of anxiousness or any kind of different level of emotion for this one than maybe others?

DUSTY BAKER: No, I don't get anxious too much. I got the same level of emotion and everything like I do in all the rest of them. You keep knocking on the door, man. If you don't knock on the door, you don't have a chance.

The way I look at it, Thomas Edison, he tried a thousand times, you know what I mean, before he discovered the light bulb and electricity. Look at Bobby Cox. How many division titles did he have, like 15 or 16? I ain't even close to that. The way I look at it if it's going to happen, the Lord wants me to have it. If it doesn't, it's still been good. That don't mean -- you know how I really feel inside. I need it, and I got to have it.

Q. I just wanted to play off the stepping off bit. I know you haven't been here for the whole time, but when you look at what this Astros team has done over the last five years, you've been around the game for a long time, how can you quantify, how can you explain to us how difficult and rarified this is that we're seeing this stretch?

DUSTY BAKER: Great question. This is very difficult. It's very difficult, especially in modern times. Before it wasn't that difficult as it is now because you were able to keep and afford to keep your players together for a longer period of time. Nowadays, it's very difficult because of the salaries that are demanded, whether the team wants to play or whether the guy's arbitration eligible or the guy stays healthy or whatever the case may be.

It's very difficult to keep some nucleus guys together and then insert some other people of quality and then carry on and continue on to do what you were doing.

So I got a lot of respect for this organization. And they've changed managers. They've changed general managers. They've changed everything except ownership. So it must be a big part of ownership to continue to do this to pick the right people to keep a team like this on top.

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