No kidding, Little Darren was almost in big trouble

October 26, 2002|By LAURA VECSEY

ANAHEIM, Calif. - What's cuter than a Rally Monkey and much better luck for the San Francisco Giants?

Little Darren, the world's smallest bat boy, that's what.

The word from Edison International Field yesterday was that Little Darren will indeed be back in the Giants' dugout tonight for Game 6 of this World Series. The Giants' good-luck charm - and son of manager Dusty Baker - is allowed.

There had been some question about that.

"I did have a conversation with Dusty over the occurrence," Major League Baseball's vice president of baseball operations, Sandy Alderson, said yesterday.

"I expressed some concern that it not be repeated. I said there's no specific rule forbidding his son being out there, but, on the other hand, we do expect judgment, common sense, be careful. Dusty said he would. Dusty said he would be in the dugout and on the field, once or twice."

Anyone who watched the Giants pummel the Anaheim Angels, 16-4, in Game 5 on Thursday night knows Little Darren. The 3-year-old adorable imp bolted from the Giants' dugout to retrieve idol Kenny Lofton's bat, only there was a small problem: David Bell was coming home to score.

Throughout the packed stands at Pacific Bell Park and across America, one single, alarming question arose at the sight of Little Darren. Had there ever, in the history of baseball, been a home-plate collision between a pint-sized toddler and a base runner?

Of course not. This was nuts, which was why the umpire and Angels catcher Bengie Molina looked on in horror. What was the kid doing out there?

The "What's Darren Doing" question will hang over this World Series forever. His escapades made his 15 minutes of fame a lot more wild and entertaining than anything else we've seen so far. And that's saying a lot.

Francisco Rodriguez throwing three shutout innings in Game 2? Impressive.

Angels center fielder Darin Erstad diving and rolling to rob Rich Aurilia of two doubles in Game 5? Great stuff.

Barry Bonds' moon shots in games 1, 2 and 3? Awesome.

Troy Glaus failing to bend and blow that ball into foul territory? Turning point.

Free-agent-to-be and future Hall of Famer Jeff Kent muscling two big homers in what could have been his final Pac Bell appearance as a Giant? Huge.

Guess what? The No. 1 memorable moment of this World Series is Little Darren. If Big Daddy Condor (J.T. Snow) doesn't have the presence to grab Little Darren by the collar and swoop him out of the way of the hard-charging Bell, Little Darren becomes a horrible little footnote to this Series.

Or maybe not, at least according to Baker, who said he wasn't convinced his son was about to become permanently disabled.

"I wasn't too worried about him getting hurt. You don't like [to see] it, no. But kids are made of more rubber than we are. Older kids, grown-ups, those are the guys who get hurt. Little kids can roll downhill, never get hurt, dust themselves off, roll back down the hill again," Baker said.

But by yesterday, Baker had not stopped reading, seeing or hearing about the incident - one he hopes doesn't take away this Giants family tradition.

"I did get a call from Sandy Alderson. He's not going to prohibit it, but he told me to watch out and who knows what happens in the future," Baker said.

"I just hope that [baseball] doesn't come up with some Darren Baker rule that prohibits kids from being in the dugout and being able to do these things."

Baseball has attempted to legislate all kinds of things this postseason, so it must have taken great restraint not to ban Little Darren from the Giants' dugout. Who would want to see a World Series turn on the exclusion of a cute, little 3-year-old?

In other matters, however, baseball issued a gag order on a carousel of teams attempting to hire managers. "No news except World Series news" was the edict from above, or below, depending on where you station Bud Selig these days.

Not that it stopped the New York Mets, Tampa Bay Devil Rays, Oakland Athletics, Seattle Mariners, Chicago Cubs and Milwaukee Brewers from playing musical managers during this alleged World Series blackout.

Speaking of managers, Baker - who is the coolest, most interesting, most human and respected man in the business - should have been on the top of everyone's managerial lists.

That the Mets didn't wait for this soothing, stirring soul is sinful - no offense to nice guy Art Howe. That the Mariners won't afford him belittles the impact that a great manager can have. That Tribune Co. has allegedly opened its wallet to attempt to lure Baker to That Toddlin' Town might finally signal great things for all those long-suffering Cubs fans.

Not that Baker is sweating through this game of musical chairs that could leave him with few options. His team is in the World Series. He beat cancer last year and talks about the spiritual strength and serenity he has in his life.

"Like I said, I'm going to wait until this is over and hopefully, after we win, take some time off, go to the mountaintop and ... ask for a sign. I'll come down and do whatever I was told to do," Baker said.

Baker will come out ahead, no matter if he comes to terms with the Giants, a team he has managed for 10 years, three times earning Manager of the Year honors.

But all that's in the future. Tonight, Baker has more pressing matters. His Giants, leading 3-2, will try to clinch the World Series, and his son will try to retrieve some bats.

Go, Little Darren, go. Just watch out, son.

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