Dusty Baker didn’t mind the crowd.
Like a politician making the rounds, Baker smiled, winked, waved and greeted fans who wanted to know his thoughts about the Kings, fishing and, of course, the Giants.
Baker, 65, was at Sleep Train Arena for the Kings’ season opener against the Warriors on Wednesday night when public address announcer Scott Moak told the crowd the Giants had beaten the Royals in Game 7 to win the World Series. The crowd cheered, then followed with a standing ovation.
Baker nodded and smiled. The former Giants manager out of Del Campo High School was a guest of the Kings as they celebrated their 30th season in Sacramento. Baker’s late father, Johnnie B. Baker, was a Kings season-ticket holder beginning that first season.
Baker passionately campaigned to keep the Kings in Sacramento when the team was wooed by investors from Seattle and Anaheim, including events with the Rotary Club and the Over the Hill Gang, chats with Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson and conversations with the media.
“What a season,” Baker said of the Giants, a team he managed to the 2002 World Series. “It’s great to be here, though. Love the Kings.”
Baker jumps at the chance to catch a Kings home opener. Days after his first season managing the Chicago Cubs, Baker attended LeBron James’ NBA debut in 2003 against the Kings in Sacramento. He’s a baseball man with a passion for basketball.
Baker savors his time with the Giants, though he’s still disappointed they couldn’t hold a five-run lead in the seventh inning of Game 6 and lost to the Angels in seven games in the 2002 World Series.
“Never get over things like that,” Baker once told me.
Though Baker didn’t attend any of the World Series games this season, his son Darren did. Darren Baker was in the national spotlight during that 2002 Series when Giants first baseman J.T. Snow scooped up the 3-year-old batboy from the plate as runners came charging in. Darren Baker is a promising baseball player at Jesuit High School in Carmichael.
Baker, who was fired by the Reds in 2013 after six seasons, sent out feelers to return to managing last winter, and he’s all ears again.
In the meantime, he’s busy with projects such as a Baker Energy Team at NASCAR Pro Series races, dedicated to conservation and alternative energy.
And there is fishing and family – his real passions – mixedwith appearances, including Sunday’s grand opening at Dick’s Sporting Goods in Turlock, where fans who wanted an autograph had to wear wristbands, a Baker trademark.
Shaq express – After scoring four defensive touchdowns early in the season for Washington, including a game-turning 100-yard fumble return at Cal, Shaq Thompson from Grant has become quite the runner.
Thompson rushed for 151 of his 174 yards in the first half of Saturday’s 38-23 victory over Colorado, and he averaged 11.1 yards per carry. The junior had runs of 24, 39 and 56 yards, and caught a 41-yard pass.
At 6-foot-2 and 230 pounds, Thompson is a rising NFL draft prospect at outside linebacker, though he may catch the attention of scouts looking for a big back, too.
“I just play whatever the coaches need me to play,” Thompson said after Saturday’s game.
Washington coach Chris Petersen watched Thompson run the ball – and play quarterback in a pinch – at Grant.
“He’s just a great football player,” Petersen said. “I keep saying that, and we’re glad he’s a Dawg. Whether he’s ripping the ball out on defense or running down the sideline, he looks great to me.”
Butte bruisers – In 2013, Butte College went 12-0, won the state community college football championship and finished No. 1 in the country in JCGridiron.rivals.com‘s rankings.
Now the Roadrunners (6-2) visit state No. 1 American River (8-0) on Saturday with hopes of derailing the Beavers’ national title hopes. ARC is ranked third nationally by JCGridiron.rivals.com.
Butte and ARC are led by bounce-back quarterbacks.
Zach Kline started at Cal after San Ramon Valley High School, then transferred to Butte, and Tanner Trosin went from Folsom High to Cal Poly to ARC. Kline passed for three touchdowns and ran for 90 yards to lead Butte to a 42-13 victory over Sacramento City on Saturday. Trosin, despite playing with a bad ankle, rallied ARC past Sierra 31-22.
Follow Joe Davidson on Twitter @SacBee_JoeD.