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October 25, 2021

Dusty Baker

Houston, Texas, USA

Minute Maid Park

Houston Astros

Workout Day Press Conference

Q. What's the status of Jake Meyers? Do you expect him to be on your roster for the World Series?

DUSTY BAKER: We're not going to announce any of our playoff rosters for a while. So I'm not at liberty to say right now because they're still trying to determine that.

Q. Is Kyle Tucker an option to play center field at some point in this series?

DUSTY BAKER: Yeah, but that's down the line. We still got two games here before we get to Atlanta. He is working out there, and we're going to make that decision when we get to Atlanta.

Q. First, how's your chin from the other day from the celebration? You look good.

DUSTY BAKER: I know. Well, he apologized like eight times. I know he wasn't trying to do that. I didn't know they caught that on camera. I can take a punch (laughter).

Q. Can you talk about and describe the impact that Hank Aaron had for you and also on the game and how much you're thinking about him heading into a series like this?

DUSTY BAKER: Well, I think about him all the time, especially in a series like this. I feel his presence, especially him and my dad. Like I said the other day, some of the greats that preceded me, friends of mine that are passed, thinking about J.R. Richard and Toy Cannon and Bob Watson and all the guys that I've come in contact with, Jim Gilliam, Roy Campanella, Don Newcombe, Don Baylor, a good friend of mine. I know he'll be pulling for us here.

He had a tremendous impact not only on the baseball field, but in my life and in my family and in business. I'll be forever grateful to him, and he's had probably a great impact also on Snitker over there because he hired him when Hank was a farm director to begin his managerial career. So Hank's footprints are all over this series.

Q. I think it's been almost 20 years since the 2002 World Series, and I only ask because your son was a kid at that time.

DUSTY BAKER: Yeah, he was 3.

Q. Still that famous image of him at home plate. I'm just wondering, as time passes and you were able to celebrate with him on the field after you guys clinched to be in the World Series, what's it been like, kind of your guys' relationship to evolve and thinking it's now been 20 years since that moment we've all watched a thousand times.

DUSTY BAKER: Well, time passes very quickly, and we are remembering that time. Everybody remembers that except him. He's the only one that doesn't remember it. People remind him of it all the time. Sometimes he gets tired of talking about it, but it is part of my history, Giants history, baseball history, and his history.

Now he's trying to make his own history with the Nationals as a player, and I'm just glad that he was able to be here for this. I got to see him before the game. I think this is only the second time that he hasn't been able to be in the dugout because he was in the dugout in other organizations. People sent me pictures of him when he was small with the Cubs and a little bit older with the Reds and a little bit older with Washington.

They sent me one picture of him, I remember when he signed his first autograph, you know what I mean? He's been practicing that since he was a little kid. Now he's a man. He's a young man. He's excited as anybody in the state of Texas or even in baseball.

Q. Another question about your son. You were saying, I think yesterday, that you all joked like are you excited yet? Now that it's the eve of the game, are you excited yet?

DUSTY BAKER: Not really. We always joke about that, and I told him, I don't get too excited too quickly because that's wasted emotion and energy at the time that you're going to need for the game.

So as the game gets closer and closer and you try to not just have it encompass your whole life because it won't let you sleep. If not, you're not sharp by not sleeping.

So you try to go to sleep. You try to do things in your regular routine, but as you get closer to the game and game time, especially right around national anthem time, that's when you really feel it.

Q. I've always been impressed with your ability to work music into your answers. I was going to ask you about your love of music but also any certain songs or playlists you listen to before a game like this.

DUSTY BAKER: Sure, music is a big part of my life. It's a big part of setting the mood and the tone for what I need. Sometimes I need jazz to calm me down or blues, or I need something to pick me up. Today I was listening to Tupac Picture Me Rollin', and I was listening to Slim Thug, a local artist. My nephew turned me on to him about 20 years ago, I'm Back.

Q. Do you know who's starting Game 2?

DUSTY BAKER: Yeah, but we're not going to announce it yet because we don't know who's starting for them.

Q. Dusty, I remember when you were introduced as manager, you talked about what was going to be on the back of your jersey and what that person had meant to you and why. When you go out tomorrow, what would it mean to carry that name, your dad, to honor him tomorrow?

DUSTY BAKER: Well, I don't even think about it really. Because since I put it on there, I'm not Dusty Jr., I'm trying to be Baker Jr. I'm just trying to honor my dad and also stay modern.

I think that was pretty cool that the young players that are young fathers that are playing ball in all sports are proud of being junior. With all the names they have out there now, there aren't many -- I didn't know there was that many juniors out there. My dad never called me Junior, and he wouldn't let anybody else call me Junior.

There's one Johnny B. Baker Sr. I am Johnny Baker Jr. But always in my family, I've never been called anything but Dusty.

Q. Dusty, you have done such a great job with this team. You took this team under the past circumstances and you stood by their side. What have you learned about this group since you took over?

DUSTY BAKER: Well, this group is a very close-knit group. This group, they come to play. They back each other. They don't really read their press clippings. They don't read positive stuff or negative stuff. I've never heard anybody boast or brag on this team, which is unlike most teams I've been on. They accept whoever comes to the team.

And this is probably the cleanest living team that I've ever been on, as far as nutrition, as far as they don't hang out. It's hard to find anybody in the bar after the game or anything. I mean, this team is just focused on baseball, clean living. I mean, they have a good time, but they're very serious and very dedicated to what they have to do and what they're trying to do.

Q. Little bit of a follow-up to that, Dusty. The casual baseball fan might tune in to the World Series, and they have this image of the Astros and what happened in the past. Do you think deep down these players, there's a motivation to win this, pass that whole scandal, to prove that they can do it without any of that stuff?

DUSTY BAKER: Well, I don't think that's their main source of motivation. That's what I think people are trying to make it as their main source of motivation, but that doesn't motivate you nearly as much as just driving to win and driving for excellence. You can only be driven by I'll show you, or you can only be driven by negative motivation so far.

I think this team is way past that because they know they can play. So this is what you have to dwell on versus me against the world because that doesn't -- after a while, like how long can you have that mantra? So I think that's been gone a while.

We are here where we wanted to be, and so we just play the game. You play the game for the love of the game and the love of winning, and they're about winning, and I'm about winning. I mean, I've always been about winning my whole life. This is just -- I mean, it's perfect for both of us.

Q. I'm just curious what a text message from Hank would look like to you the day before Game 1 of the World Series. Trash talk? Friendly wager on the line?

DUSTY BAKER: No, there's no trash talk. Number one, I'd be scared, you know what I'm saying? And number two, he wouldn't text me. He'd call me. Like his opening words would be, "Mr. Dusty Baker." That's what he calls me. He would say, "I'm pulling for you. Good luck. Just be yourself."

Q. With the lefties that they have in the back end of their bullpen, does that change any of the way that you are weighing or how you would use Castro at all as a pinch hitter?

DUSTY BAKER: Maybe. It just depends on -- which lefty depends on who he'd be hitting for or if at all. Or if I'd use him a little earlier. Like it depends where our roster is. It depends who our roster is and who I would use and who I would think would be the best matchup.

Q. I think you mentioned yesterday you don't know Brian Snitker all that well, but I'm sure you know his story of getting here, getting the job, and keeping it. Is there extra admiration for a guy like that?

DUSTY BAKER: Yeah, definitely. His path has been a lot different than mine. But we end up at the same place. I know a lot of people that know him, Ralph Garr is still with the Braves. He's my closest friend.

I was just thinking last night, like I said, I know his staff personally because a couple years ago I was in Atlanta doing something for ESPN or something, and they had a rain delay, and Snitker invited me in because I know Tuxedo. You know who Tuxedo is? Yeah, that's the bench coach. I knew Tuxedo in New York. I've got a nickname for everybody.

I really know Wash real, real, real well. I know E.Y. real well. I know the pitching coach that was with me, I think in Chicago in our Minor Leagues. I know him well. So I know his staff closer than I know him.

But, yeah, I got admiration for him.

Q. How do you think players respond to you now versus 20 years ago when you were closer to their age group? Is it any different?

DUSTY BAKER: Yeah, it's different. I came in as a coach, and I came in hanging out in the back of the plane. As a player, I never went up in front of the plane. I never went up in front of the bus. We were in the back cutting it up.

Then when I first started coaching, I was staying in the back, talking more to the players on the plane. But things change over the course of time where I let them have their space. I try not to intrude upon their space. Plus with COVID being around, we weren't allowed to go to the back of the plane. We weren't allowed to leave your seats. So it set a total different dynamic. Guys weren't allowed to play cards anymore. The whole thing changed.

When I first came in, I was more like an uncle, and then I became more like a dad. So I'm kind of in between a dad and maybe even a granddad, but I'm probably a little bit too cool to be a granddad right now (laughter).

Q. I have two questions. The first one, I know you get asked this every day, but do you have an update on Lance McCullers' availability?

DUSTY BAKER: No, you'll hear from Lance this afternoon.

Q. And the second question, you've been a part of a lot of different teams. What's the identity of this team, and what makes it special?

DUSTY BAKER: Just probably the fact of how they've -- everybody talks about that window of opportunity to win, and then most teams fell from that opportunity to win to the bottom and basement and build it all over again. But this team is totally different from the top down.

Jim Crane doesn't really believe in tearing it down. He believes in adding on and keeping the right pieces there. I got to commend James Click for revamping our bullpen but keeping the team together. Even there were some things that I didn't know how to feel or necessarily agree with, but I've got to commend him that he was right and things have worked out for us and for the players that we got.

That's what a team is all about -- difference of attitude and difference of what makes the world go round is that nobody agrees all the time. I don't know how you guys' job are. Maybe you guys agree all the time. I doubt it. But that's what makes the world go round are differences of opinion.

Q. What's been the value of having Ralph Garr here as a friend and a sounding board? Does he still get his tickets even though he still works for the Braves?

DUSTY BAKER: I can't tell you all that because I can't get new trouble, but he's a Brave through and through. He's a Brave fan through and through. I don't put any pressure on him as far as the personal with me and who he works for, but it's been great being in the city with Ralph. It's been great talking baseball. I mean, sometimes I don't feel like talking about it, and he talks about it anyway.

It's been great to have his wife Ruby cook for particularly me and Gary Pettis and Ralph will drop it off. Like she cooks, like she can really cook. So that's been great where you feel like you're at home.

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