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Year removed from stroke, Baker more focused

Year removed from stroke, Baker more focused

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Year removed from stroke, Baker more focused

PITTSBURGH -- A prevailing memory from Reds manager Dusty Baker's postseason news conferences last year was not just discussion about the National League Division Series against the Giants but his articulation of his appreciation for the little things -- the chirping of the birds, the clouds in the sky -- in the wake of his mild stroke a couple weeks prior.

Baker articulated all these things well, which is why it was surprising to hear him reveal before Tuesday's NL Wild Card Game against the Pirates just how much trepidation he had about talking to the media so soon after his medical ordeal.

"Probably what I'm most proud of, of me," Baker said, "is the fact that last year at this time, I was two weeks removed from my stroke. I wasn't as clear-headed then as I am now."

Baker said he and his family were nervous about his condition at such a pivotal point in the season and in the midst of such a demanding schedule.

"It was difficult to come here in this setting, in this interview room," he said, "because there were a lot of things I couldn't think of, a lot of times I couldn't put things into words the way I'd like to ordinarily."

Baker had no trouble finding his words Tuesday. And though there was ultimately disappointment in the Reds not winning the NL Central and having to face the Buccos in this win-or-go-home atmosphere, Baker said he is proud to have reached the postseason three times in four seasons.

"It's not about having pride in myself," he said. "I'm proud to have been with these young players from the time a lot of them just got to the big leagues. I've been the only manager that some of them have had."

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Mark My Word, and follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon. Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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