BERKELEY, Calif. — When the coronavirus pandemic shut down sports more than a year ago, Dusty Baker, who had just taken over as manager of the Houston Astros, left spring training and returned home to Granite Bay, Calif., just outside Sacramento. So, too, did his son Darren, when his baseball season — along with his in-person classes at the University of California, Berkeley — came to an abrupt end.
For four months, the Bakers were deprived of the sport and its sensations — the crack of a ball meeting a bat, the smell of freshly cut grass — which had long provided a rhythm and an anchor to their lives.
In its place, they found something unexpected, a gift that a father and a son might treasure even more: time together.
That meant morning fishing jaunts to a friend’s pond. Afternoon hitting tutorials in the batting cage. Dusty tending to his cabbage, zucchini, collard greens, garlic, onions, okra, peas, grapevines and fruit trees while Darren tended to his online classes. And in the evening, after Melissa Baker — Dusty’s wife and Darren’s mom — cooked dinner, that meant watching Westerns on television, Darren doing his best to stay awake through one Clint Eastwood movie after another.