Baker's message: "Think like a family"

VIERA, Fla. - Dusty Baker had plenty of time to think about what he wanted to say to his new Nationals roster in his first full-squad meeting Thursday morning. He prepared an outline in his mind, but he has always preferred not to write out an actual speech in advance. He'd rather speak from the heart once the time arrives.

So what was Baker's message when he finally opened his mouth before Thursday's first full-squad workout of the spring?

"You want them to start thinking like a champion," he said. "And you want them to get together as soon as possible and think like a family."

Baker-Intro-Uniform-Sidebar.jpgTogetherness is a major part of Baker's managerial philosophy. He learned that a long time ago, from his years playing with the Braves, Dodgers and others, then managing the Giants, Cubs and Reds.

And Baker didn't just come up with this on his own. He picked the brain of two of sport's greatest champions for advice on just this subject.

"Bill Russell, when I asked him the secret of the Celtics winning, he told me it was love," Baker said. "And then when I talked to John Wooden, he told me the one thing he would've changed on his pyramid of success is he would've added love to the top.

"It sounds corny, but it's real. Like a family, you don't get along all the time. But guess what, you're still family. And no outsider better not get along with the family. That's family stuff. I want guys to spend time together."

It looks like the Nationals were already taking that message to heart before it was even delivered. A group of players planned to attend Thursday night's Warriors-Magic basketball game in nearby Orlando, something of a team outing and bonding exercise.

Baker's words resonated with players old and young. And for those who have already played for him before, they had a reassuring, familiar tone to them.

"It was pretty standard for what he believes in, as far as a clubhouse and how he wants guys to stick together and be a family," said right-hander Bronson Arroyo, who pitched for Baker in Cincinnati. "He said: 'I've never been on a team where there wasn't some bickering going on between some guys. But I bickered with my brother all the time. If anybody's going to come in from the outside and mess with my brother, we've got a problem.'

"That's how he wants this clubhouse to be. It doesn't have to be perfect all the time, but just know that we're all on the same side."

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Observations and quotes from Thursday's workout

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