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October 1, 2002

Dusty Baker


Q. Have you set your post-season roster yet?

DUSTY BAKER: That was one of the issues we were discussing while we were here, so we'll probably make a decision after practice. We're pretty close. I have a question, have the Braves set theirs yet?

Q. No. They are waiting for you. (Laughter.)

DUSTY BAKER: (Laughs).

Q. Would you talk about your experience here as a player -- this was your first team -- and where were you when Hank Aaron hit the home run?

DUSTY BAKER: I was born with the Braves so to speak, in my professional career and I matured with the Dodgers, of course, later. But it was a very, very trying experience to me at the time, it was a very enlightening experience. It taught me a lot about myself, a lot about people. I was in the South during a time of -- or certainly thereafter -- you know when our country was mired in a number of issues, including equality and including Vietnam, or at least mid- to post-Vietnam. Like I said, it was a very trying time here at that time. Through Hank Aaron, of course, the majority of the black leaders in our country at the time, including Mayor Jackson, Andrew Young, Reverend Jesse Jackson, most of the black leaders have been through here. Like I said, it was a very trying time, difficult time and a different time for young man coming from California. At that time I first got out here I was 18 years old, and it was a lot deeper than sometimes I wish to talk about or think about. And there are happier times here with Hank Aaron, of course, Hank Aaron's family. I was on-deck batting behind Hank Aaron on a number of his home runs. Basically that was one of the highlights of my career, even though I didn't do anything except watch. I feel like one of the most blessed men in the world to have been around Hank Aaron for that long, and he taught me a lot, like I said, about life and about how to be a young, aspiring black man in America, in the South. Hank taught me a lot.

Q. When Russ Ortiz was in, he was talking about the way he feels about pitching in big games on the road. What is it about his demeanor?

DUSTY BAKER: Because he had the best record on our team last year -- at the time, you tend to want to shelter certain young men by not making him No. 1. I figure he can handle it; other matchups against other teams' No. 1. He said he really didn't need the protection. One day, we had a long conversation and he said that he enjoys pitching against the best, even though at the time I didn't think he was quite ready to handle that responsibility and carry the load. Now we think that even though he was more or less our unwritten ace at the time, it was his turn to pitch and he has pitched great down the stretch this year, like he has last year. I think Russ is ready to handle that role and responsibility because he's a man of great faith, he's our spiritual, religious leader on our team, and he has. For a young man of his age, he's years ahead are as far as maturity, and I think his faith has the majority to do with that.

Q. How would you rate yourself as a manager this year compared to other years with this ballclub?

DUSTY BAKER: I don't know. That's a difficult question. I don't usually rank myself too much. There was a time I used to rank myself too high in most categories. I'm trying to remain humble and do what's necessary to win. I care not to rank myself, actually. I think I did a good job. I think my team did a great job, and I think we did an outstanding job together.

Q. As a really good hitter yourself, what is it like to have watched Barry, particularly the last two years?

DUSTY BAKER: It's been a pleasure and a joy, and almost a -- not almost, but it's been unbelievable, actually, to see how much better he is than the other greats in the game. To see him getting better as he gets holder, and also, to see a level of concentration that's only equal, since I've been here, to Hank Aaron, I think. And even Hank was not pitched the way Barry is pitched. The way he's watched, the way he gets one or two pitches a night to hit and how he doesn't miss them. Now, Hank didn't miss them either, but Hank had more pitches to hit than Barry had. But, perhaps Hank had a great, great supporting cast, too, with Eddie Matthews and Orlando Cepeda. I'm not taking anything away from our guys, but he had some Hall of Famers surrounding him. I tell you, it's been unbelievable. He know what he's doing. He knows what they are looking for, he knows what they are going to throw him. He recognizes fear, he recognizes who is bold enough to challenge him. His recognition and his feelings are like one like I've never seen before.

Q. Hank Aaron always felt that Ken Griffey, Junior might be the one that would break his record. Seeing Barry every day, knowing where he is in his career now, do you think he could do that?

DUSTY BAKER: Possibly. It all depends if he stays healthy or not. Hank thought that before Ken Griffey, Junior got hurt, too. Once you get injured, then you have a success of injuries, most of the time what happens after that -- he could still do it because, nothing else, if his legs get right. And possibly, if they take him out of centerfield and put him in a less strenuous defensive situation. His body is still preserved, big time because he's had two less years of mileage on his body. Barry definitely could do it. It's still a lot of home runs away, but when you look at 613, it's not really that far from 755. It depends how much longer he wants to play, actually. Or, like I said, it's hard to judge health. If he stays healthy, I think he has an excellent chance. There are a couple of guys maybe. Ken Griffey Junior, you look at the way Sammy Sosa is going, you look at the way A-Rod is going, a lot of these records could fall due to modern sports -- I think more than anything, due to modern medicine that can fix guys if they do get hurt.

Q. Tomorrow, the ballpark will be no more than 80 percent full. Is that something that would work in your favor, or does it have any impact?

DUSTY BAKER: No, I don't think it has much impact, basically. I think everybody knows -- people here are waiting for the Braves to go to the World Series. They go to the playoffs every year, so it's no big deal now. I don't think it's going to have much impact on us. There will probably be a little -- a few less chops out there than normal. That's fine with me.

Q. You've been Manager of the Year three times, and going 1-6 in the post-season, what impact does that have?

DUSTY BAKER: None. The fact that, as a manager, you don't play but you get credit for wins and losses, you know what I mean? Now, if I was playing myself, I would have more of an impact. No, I don't think it has any impact. Like I told my team today, forget about the past. You can't bring the past forward with you because if you do, you will remain in the past. So the best thing to do is forget about 1-6, 1-8 or 10 or 12 or whatever it is. Start all over again because there's nothing you can do in the past. Just think about how many guys are 0-0 who have never even been there. That's how I look at it.

Q. Having seen how Barry has been pitched around all year, and now you have Benito Santiago behind him, how important is Santiago's performance to what you do in this series?

DUSTY BAKER: Well, I'm sure it's going to be talked about quite a bit. No matter who hits behind Barry, how they do is going to be very important and pivotal in any series. Not only Benito, but how Reggie Sanders does, J.T. Snow does, how David Bell does, whoever is down there does. All I know is I was in the same situation hitting behind Hank Aaron. Benito is 37, I was 22.

Q. In your two previous trips to the Division Series, did you feel a need to talk to the team then, or is this the first time you've done that?

DUSTY BAKER: No. I've always talked to them. It's a matter of, you know, after a while, what can you say other than, just win and play hard. That's the main thing. Talking is not the issue here. The main issue here is playing. You can talk until the sun comes up and goes back down but it's not going to do any good, you've got to play.

Q. Could you talk about the challenge of facing tomorrow Glavine who lives on the corner and if he's getting the corner calls, what that impact would be?

DUSTY BAKER: Corner of what? Corner of Peachtree? (Laughter.) I'm joking with you. It's very important for the umpires -- it depends -- when a guy lives on the corner, it depends if the umpire is giving him the corner or not. Depending on who the umpire is going to be, it is going to be very, very important, especially when you have a couple of guys who live on the corner, namely he and Maddux, both. From looking at the film, they are teaching Millwood how to live on the corner, too. Umpires have become very, very important in a series like, this because one call, one pitch, one out or safe call or one questionable call could change an entire ballgame. Similar to when we played the Mets, there were a couple of calls that could have changed the outcome of the game and the series.

Q. Do you recall Livan Hernandez' start against the Braves and what were your thoughts in that game?

DUSTY BAKER: Yes. I don't know if I'm getting older, it's getting a little tough to remember. My thoughts were Eric was calling them and Livan was using it. Those are my thoughts. If the guy has got to give it to you, then you've got to put it there, No. 1. You can't know what a guy is giving you, if you don't put it there it's not going to be much good. Livan threw an excellent ballgame that game.

Q. Do you think it's an advantage to the rest of the team in a playoff situation when the spotlight and the attention is on one guy, like Barry, does that help the rest of the team?

DUSTY BAKER: I mean, possibly. I don't know how it's going to help Barry relax. But we need to relax Barry Bonds. That's what we need. Hopefully, this will help the other guys relax, just play the way we are capable of playing.

Q. Any ideas on why Barry has not had the kind of success in the post-season that he's had during the regular season in the past?

DUSTY BAKER: Not really. I mean, I wasn't with him the first three times when he was with Jim Leyland. He was younger then. Possibly I noticed in those series that there were a lot of fly balls and a lot of pop-ups, so perhaps he was trying to do too much. Sometimes he might have been trying to hit a home run every pitch. And if he wasn't, then most times you're not going to be popping up. Like I said, we're trying to forget whatever negatives happened in the past and start all over again. I know you've got questions to ask, but we're trying to bury whatever happened in the past.

End of FastScripts�.

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