SALT LAKE CITY — Dusty Baker, who played major league baseball for 19 seasons and managed for 20 more, was the featured speaker at this year’s University of Utah baseball fundraiser Tuesday night at the Sheraton Hotel.
“An evening with Dusty Baker” came to fruition after a request by Utah baseball coach Bill Kinneberg at a Pac-12 game between the Utes and California. Baker’s son, Darren, is an infielder for the Golden Bears.
“He asked me: ‘Would you come help us?’ and I said 'sure,'” Baker explained. “I said 'if I’m available I’ll be there' and so I’m available and I kept my word.”
The 69-year-old joked that Kinneberg seemed kind of shocked that he actually showed up. The pair got to know each other after meeting last season during a series in Berkeley.
“He was so gracious and so nice. After every game he came up and talked to me,” said Kinneberg, who noted they built a little bit of a friendship. “He’s been great, awesome to have him here. I think he’s enjoying it and so we’re happy to have him.”
Baker played for the Atlanta Braves, Los Angeles Dodgers (winning the World Series in 1981), San Francisco Giants and Oakland Athletics. He later managed the Giants, Chicago Cubs, Cincinnati Reds and Washington Nationals.
“I enjoyed both. I managed almost equally to the amount of time that I played,” Baker said. “But of all the things, you still enjoy playing the most because you can control the outcome of a game, whereas a manager, you’re at the mercy of how your players respond and how they play.”
As manager of the Nationals from 2016-17, Baker worked with slugger Bryce Harper. Baker said he didn’t have any idea where the prized free agent would end up.
“He should have been signed a long time ago,” Baker said. “ I don’t think anybody knows. It’s about time to kind of make up your mind because you still have to decide on where you’re going to live. You don’t want to be doing that once the season starts because that’s a distraction.”
Baker added that it’s hard on your family, or you, to be out this late.
“He’s an outstanding ballplayer. He’s been around a long time, but he’s still a very young man,” Baker said of the 26-year-old Harper, who is a six-time All-Star and 2015 National League MVP. “You’ve been hearing about Bryce Harper for years and years.”2 comments on this story
Baker wishes the best for Harper and his family. He hopes he lands on a team where he’s going to be happy, productive and on a good team.
Baker’s remarks came at Utah baseball’s 15th fundraising event. Past special guests include Terry Francona (2005, 2008, 2017), Cal Ripken Jr. (2006), Brooks Robinson (2007), Harmon Killebrew (2009), Bruce Hurst (2010), Dave Winfield (2011), Ozzie Smith (2012), Tommy Lasorda (2013), John Farrell (2014), Jim Palmer (2015), Ned Yost (2016) and Steve Garvey (2018).
“It’s not easy but we keep doing it,” Kinneberg said. “And it’s fun. It’s great to see all these people here.”