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Optimistic Baker says SF still special

Optimistic Baker says SF still special

SAN FRANCISCO -- Dusty Baker managed the Giants to seven winning records and three postseason appearances in 10 years with them. Yet San Francisco's winningest manager believes that his best efforts at steering a club await him.

If so, that's good news for the Cincinnati Reds, whom Baker joined this season after taking a one-year break from managing.

"You learn to control your emotions a little better," Baker said Friday, explaining why added experience should generate enhanced results. "You learn to trust your insides and instincts a little more. I think you're in tune with yourself and the game and everything else."

Baker had little trouble keeping his feelings in check while returning to San Francisco for the first time with the Reds. The experience wasn't as bittersweet as it was in 2003, Baker's first of four seasons with the Chicago Cubs. At that point, Baker was still coping with the transition from the Giants.

"It's a little less emotional because I was playing against all the guys on my team, that we just went to the World Series with [in 2002]," Baker said. "Now, there's only a few guys I know over there."

Yet Baker, who still has a home in Northern California, readily acknowledged that the Bay Area and San Francisco remain special for him. Reminded that plenty of fans still love him -- he received warm applause from the AT&T Park crowd when he was shown on the Diamond Vision video board before the fifth inning -- Baker replied, "I love them. ... The City's a very unique place."

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Baker might struggle to duplicate the instant success he enjoyed with the Giants in 1993, when he guided them to a 103-59 record. The Reds entered Friday in last place in the National League Central with a 9-14 mark and ranked 12th in the league in scoring. But Baker wouldn't take the bait when a reporter asked whether the Reds might be intereeted in signing Barry Bonds, the all-time home run leader who remains unsigned after his 15-year Giants tenure ended in 2007.

"I ain't touching that," said Baker, who admitted having a "nice conversation" with Bonds during Spring Training. "We've got big [Adam] Dunn. He ain't bad."

Baker's feelings about Dunn reflect both his optimism about the Reds and his eternally upbeat nature.

"I'm glad I'm back," he said. "This is where I belong right now at this point in time in my life. It's challenging and it's fun."

Baker helped make baseball fun, said Robb Nen, the Giants' all-time saves leader.

"He's one of the greatest managers ever, as far as being a people person," said Nen, who was honored as part of the Giants' season-long "Forever Giants Fridays" promotion. "When you were going bad, he'd be the first one to pat you on the back and encourage you. ... He knew the game wasn't easy. He stuck up for everybody. That's what everybody loved about him."

Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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