I'm no baseball player, but like baseball players, I'm told I require management. And, having followed the San Francisco Giants in 2002 as a "well-wisher" (in that I did not wish them any specific harm), when Human Resources announced that Dusty Baker was leaving his post as manager of the Cincinnati Reds to become a sales manager at my small San Francisco company, I didn't know whether to laugh or cry.
The First Day
When I walked in the office the following Monday and saw Dusty in my former supervisor's office, I suddenly knew which.
I imagined he would be dressed in full baseball manager regalia, complete with button-bursting gut and cleats, but in retrospect, I suppose that was a silly thing to expect.
He did, however, maintain his trademark toothpick and sun-blocking sports shades. A grey and white pinstriped suit, white handkerchief, and jet-black wing-tipped shoes formed the rest of his ensemble.
His sunglasses were so dark; I couldn't even tell if he was looking at me. I sensed he was, though, so I hurried to my desk and sat down. I booted up the computer and went about my early morning ritual: checking email, reading the top news stories, and listening to my voicemails.
I was about done when I felt a tap on my shoulder.
"Son, let me see what you've got, today," he said. Amazing how his toothpick never budged from his lower lip, even as he was looking down and talking. Years of practice.
"Yes, Mr. Baker." I turned back towards my computer, but I noticed that he was still there. I picked up my phone and pretended to call someone. I finally heard him 'mmhmm' and stroll back to his desk.
A few moments later, I nervously glanced over my shoulder to see if he was still looking at me. He was standing, one foot on his chair, leaning on his bent knee, arms folded, staring through pitch-black glasses. Classic managerial pose.
The Second Day
Things didn't get any weirder for the rest of the day, or the majority of the next day. Dusty stayed behind his desk, rarely venturing out of his office. He called over a co-worker of mine once, and, from the looks of it, seemed to go over batting stances with him in his office.
I must admit, I appreciated the lack of attention. I managed to get a healthy amount of work done without the constant supervision, despite the bizarre circumstances. Things were going well until about four o'clock, when Dusty came back over to my desk for the first time since Monday.
"How do you feel, junior?"
I exclaimed that I was doing great, and that I was more productive than usual. I made a mental note to kick myself when I got home—Dusty may have been a good manager after all. And then he opened his mouth, again.
"You've been having a great day, start to finish," he said. I nodded. "I want to see you finish this thing." I stared blankly. "You've got to reach deep down inside, and finish this thing."
I was as confused as you are, reading this. I swear.
"Sure, I'll wrap this up by five, like normal." I was almost nervous, trying to think of what would come next.
"No, son, you've got to have heart. You want this. Finish it. No one is coming in to save you."
I sort of hiccup-laughed. You know, when you literally burst out laughing, but you catch yourself before you complete a full laugh? It was the fact that he was dead serious shut me up. Dusty sauntered back to his office, and resumed his perch.
I watched in envy as every other employee filed out between about 4:45 and 5:30. And I was just too damn nervous and confused to follow suit. I mean, if your manager—scratch that—an actual manager manager had those damn sunglasses trained on you the whole time, you'd be scared to leave, too.
And you know the worst part? He might've been asleep the whole friggin' time! I mean, you watch 162 baseball games every year for decades; you're bound to doze off once or twice. And baseball games are more exciting than offices, let me tell you.
It was 7:37 when my illustrious manager stood up, clapping softly. He emerged from his office again to see me, hunched over at my computer, eyes glazed over from lack of blinking.
"I know you're tired son," he offered. "Be ready for me in five days. Now get some rest."
"Does that mean I can go home?"
He laughed. "Yes, but I need you back here tomorrow to cheer on your teammates."
The Third Day
I casually walked in a few minutes late the next day. I took my time brewing some coffee and running through my daily routine. Not long after, Dusty tapped me on the shoulder once again. In case you were wondering, he still had the grey and white pinstripes on, with the polished black wing tips. I don't think he was wearing it every day, though. I think all of his suits looked like that.
"Son, let me tell you something." I spun around to face him, sat back in my chair and prepared for a speech. "You're doing a lot of walking."
"I'm sorry I was a few minutes late," I said while searching for a response. "The metro was backed up pretty badly."
"It's okay, son, but I need you more aggressive. You're becoming a liability."
I froze. Was I about to be fired? Or perhaps worse, demoted to AAA? I didn't even know what I was supposed to be afraid of.
"You've been clogging up the bases, and our other guys haven't been able to do their job." I almost blurted out a 'What!?' but I resisted the temptation. "I don't ask that you be the fastest. But get up there, do what you do, and get out of the way. We're a team. If I ask you to sacrifice for the team, make sure you put your all into it. Don't get greedy to hit one out of the park. Play within yourself."
He gestured with his hands, both of them together, scooping air towards his chest. "Within yourself."
I must've visibly rolled my eyes because he saw something he didn't like one bit. "Hey! Come on now, son. Get your head in the game." He put his hands on his hips and slowly walked away, looking off into the distance, lips pursed.
I was shaken enough to actually be worried.
The Fourth Day
I came to work at 7:52 the next day, and was on the phone taking care of business by 8:00, when my manager poked his head out of his office.
"Jared, can I have a word, please?"
I dutifully marched into his office, half expecting, or hoping, for some kind of recognition for being all of eight minutes early. I sat down beside a young looking African-American gentleman, and Dusty seated himself in his throne, opposite each of us. For the first time, he wasn't wearing glasses.
"I appreciate your work, here. You've been doing good," he stated. I cringed. The guy next to me looked like a bigger, stronger version of me. He even had better clothes on.
"But I feel its time we tried someone else in your spot," he said as he nodded towards the young man next to me. "I think Corey is more of what we're looking for."
Yes, that Corey. "You're replacing me with Corey Patterson!?"
"Calm down, son. This is part of the game. Corey can bring some speed and hustle to this team," he trailed off. I must've looked like I was about to interject, which I was. I just couldn't find the words. He was replacing me with a guy who held a career .293 on-base percentage.
I stared at Dusty wide-eyed for some time before standing up and excusing myself from his office. I began to pack up my things: my iPod, my JaMarcus Russel bobble-head doll, the photo of me with Mark McGwire with a Jason Giambi head taped on top, and a Miguel Tejada on top of that, with a Nick Swisher on top of that, and a Billy Beane on top of that.
I saw Corey's things in a box next to the computer tower on the floor. There was something shiny there, so I glanced over my shoulder before snooping through. It was a baseball trophy, with the following inscribed: Most Sacrifice Hits: 2007. My stomach sank.
I picked up my things and started towards the door. On the way out, I passed by Corey Patterson, attempting to train himself on how to make coffee. I paused, then turned back to ask him something.
"Corey...why would you leave the Reds to come work here? Is Dusty Baker that great?"
"No," he said, without looking up from his mess of ground and filters. "But I was out of a job—Dusty's the only one who will ever hire me."