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Futures Game makes Baylor nostalgic

Futures Game makes Baylor nostalgic

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ANAHEIM -- Don Baylor's accomplishments at Angel Stadium are remembered as if they're fresh. A creative illustration honoring his accomplishments in an Angels uniform, the highest of which was the 1979 American League Most Valuable Player trophy, decorates several walls. He is treated as Angels royalty.

But Baylor, now the Rockies' hitting coach, accomplished a career first on Sunday, when he handed in the lineup card as manager of Team USA at the XM All-Star Futures Game.

"I played here, but I've not managed here," said Baylor, who managed the Rockies and the Cubs but never made it to Anaheim for Interleague Play. "This is the first."

Even though the park has undergone major changes over the years, such as a renovation to accommodate the Los Angeles Rams in 1980 and an ersatz geological formation added to center field in later years, Baylor said he feels at home. He also said that the current ownership, led by Arte Moreno, has treated him as one of the Angels' own even though Baylor never played for him.

"I really like when I first came here and 'The Big A' [a steel "A" with a halo on top that is the distinguishing feature of the stadium complex] was on the field out," Baylor said. "We always tried to take batting practice and see if we could hit it.

"It's where I made an impact here. We won in '79 and '82 -- the first two division championships. The disappointing time for me was when I left here. I established a cystic fibrosis golf outing in 1977 that I still have. The Angels are involved in it."

On Sunday, Baylor was more concerned about the future than Angels memories.

Baylor, 61, whose name has been mentioned publicly as a candidate for the Orioles managerial job after the season, described the experience of managing future stars as refreshing.

"I told them I wish I was in their place and had the opportunity when I was 18, 19, 20 years old to play in a Major League ballpark before you even play in the Majors, be on ESPN nationally to have all our friends watch," said Baylor, who added that he appreciated Rockies general manager Dan O'Dowd and team ownership for endorsing the managing opportunity even though the Rockies were playing the Padres on Sunday. "I thought you don't need too many things to rejuvenate you in this game, but this is one of them."

Rockies catching prospect Wilin Rosario, who drove in a run for the World team and threw out two baserunners, said Baylor's instruction during Spring Training was a key to his strong first half. Baylor placed cones along the power alleys from the fence to the infield to remind players to keep the ball in the middle of the field.

"I have more confidence. I know that I need to go the opposite way -- not only hit the ball hard and make good contact, but hit the ball in the middle," Rosario said.

Baylor said he was charged to write the name of Dodgers shortstop prospect Dee Gordon into the starting lineup. Baylor managed Gordon's father, former reliever Tom "Flash" Gordon, with the Cubs in 2001 and 2002.

"It was crazy," Dee Gordon said. "I didn't know he was our manager until he stood up at breakfast. I said, 'Wow, a guy who managed my daddy is also managing me.'

"I met him then. He probably thought I was just a little kid running around the clubhouse. That's exactly what I was."

On Sunday, Baylor felt like a kid again.

Thomas Harding 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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