VIERA, Fla. - Close your eyes and conjure up an image of Dusty Baker, watching his team from the top step of the dugout - cap on, sunglasses perched on his nose, hand to his chin as he ponders his next move.
Now what does Baker have in his mouth? A toothpick, right?
It has become synonymous with the Nationals’ new manager. For decades, he’s rarely been seen at work without a toothpick twirling between his lips.
But why? How and when did this all start? Baker shared the story Tuesday from his office at Space Coast Stadium.
“The toothpick came about, No. 1, because my dad, he always had a toothpick,” Baker explained. “If you have something in your teeth, go talk to my dad. Second part, it came about, after I played, I was a batting coach. We were behind, and players called (for) a “Rally Dip.” I got a dip (of chewing tobacco). It made me sick and light-headed. Then we scored five runs. Then the next day, they said ‘Rally Dip’ again and we got five, six more runs. I think the devil was in charge.
“Then, I got hooked on dip. I started dipping when I was fishing, dipping when I was hunting. Then I said, ‘Aw, I’m only dipping when I’m fishing and hunting,’ so I just did it like every day.
“So I went to my dentist, and they told me I was forming some periodontal disease, and that dipping wasn’t helping. So they told me to go to the Whole Foods to get the Australian chewing sticks. Tea tree therapy. Helps me stop dipping ... except, every once in a while, with bases loaded in the ninth, I’ll have both of them.”