Dusty Baker remembers Hank Aaron during Braves/Astros World Series

Aaron was a longtime mentor, father figure to Baker

Cincinnati Reds manager Dusty Baker, left, stands with his son Darren Baker, center, and baseball great Hank Aaron, right, as the national anthem plays during the Civil Rights Game ceremony before a game between the Chicago White Sox and the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park, Saturday, June 20, 2009, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/David Kohl) (David Kohl, Copyright 2020 by KPRC Click2Houston - All rights reserved.)

When Dusty Baker was a young man, he prayed he wouldn’t get drafted by a team in the south. He wasn’t sure how he would handle being an African American in the deep south; this was, of course, the 1960s.

But he was drafted by a southern team; the Atlanta Braves. Baker would become close with Hank Aaron, who helped guide him through baseball and eventually life. Aaron promised Baker’s mother he would help take care of her son.

Now, the memory of Hank Aaron stays with Baker as the Braves and Astros play in the World Series.

“I think about him all the time,” said Baker. “Especially in a series like this. I feel his presence.”

Baker and Aaron were present in many aspects of each other’s lives. Baker was in the on-deck circle when Aaron hit his iconic 715th home run, breaking Babe Ruth’s record. Aaron was like a grandfather to Baker’s son, Darren. The two remained close until Aaron’s death on January 22. Posthumously, Aaron has his imprint all over this World Series as his Braves take on Baker, manager for the Astros.

“His footprints are all over this series,” said Baker.

Baker spoke with media throughout the week about everything the late Aaron taught him.

“About being a proud African American, but not wearing that on your sleeve because it’s already on your face. He taught me a lot of life lessons, big time.”

The Astros’ skipper was asked what Aaron would have said to him if he were still living.

“Going over the conversations we would have had, we probably wouldn’t have (talked) much about baseball.”

Now, Baker is in the midst of trying to win his first World Series as a manager against the team who drafted him.

“He had a tremendous impact, not only on the baseball field but on my life, and in my family, and in my business,” said Baker. “I’ll be forever grateful.”