Darren, 17, among prospects at Player Development Pipeline Premier event
By AJ Cassavell
LAKE ELSINORE, Calif. -- Most baseball fans remember Darren Baker in one enduring image from the 2002 World Series -- a 3-year-old bat boy trotting to home plate, only to be scooped up by a quick-thinking J.T. Snow and whisked out of harm's way.
If Darren -- the son of Nationals manager Dusty Baker -- has anything to say about it, he still has a larger legacy to weave on the baseball field.
"He's heard about it a thousand times," said Dusty Baker, who was managing the Giants against the Angels in Game 5 when Darren prematurely left the dugout to pick up Kenny Lofton's bat. "He really doesn't even remember it, he tells me. People always remind him, or he sees it on TV. Like three or four years ago is when he realized he's in the process of making his own destiny, making his own name."
Now 17, Darren Baker is a serious outfield prospect, committed to play college baseball at California. He took part in Saturday's Player Development Pipeline Premier event, which featured many of the best prospects in the state (including seven players on MLBPipeline's Draft Top 50).
Baker went 0-for-3 with three groundouts during the eight-inning game, which wrapped up a day full of drills and batting practice. Part of the session included an interview, and Darren didn't shy away from acknowledging the pressures of being the son of a Major Leaguer.
"I struggled with being Dusty's son when I was younger," Darren said. "It was a lot of expectation, and you're kind of held to a higher standard. But as I grew older, I felt I proved myself a little more. I felt like just another guy."
Darren stands 5-foot-11, 160 pounds and is still growing into his athletic frame as he enters his senior season at Jesuit High School in Carmichael, Calif. As a junior, he batted .386 with an .884 OPS.
On the opposite coast, his father followed from afar while his son impressed last year. The Nats skipper wasn't about to miss Saturday's event, one of the few chances he'll get to watch Darren this season.
"I'm probably a little more nervous here watching him play than I am watching my own team play," said Dusty, who heads to Spring Training next week. "I'm trying to accept that that's the way it is sometimes as a father."
This June, Darren will likely hear his name called in the later rounds of the Draft. With a solid senior season, he could position himself even higher.
At that point, the Bakers will have a decision to make about whether Darren will honor his commitment to Cal. Dusty says that'll be his son's call entirely.
For now, Darren is merely enjoying the ride.
"Recently, I've thought more and more about the Draft, what's to come," Darren said. "I'll kind of just let it take care of itself. I don't worry about it too much. I don't stress about what will happen, what won't happen. Just live in the present and move from there."
AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.