🏆Dusty Baker, Renaissance Champ: Houston Astros’ Skipper Moonlights As Vintner & Energy Innovator
Finally winning his first World Championship as a manager in 2022, the Astros' popular leader has dabbled in vastly different enterprises for years! He's also in biz with a hit-making R&B musician!
Portions of this article appeared in The Runner Sports, February 10, 2020
When the Houston Astros signed Dusty Baker as their new manager, January 29, 2020, they didn’t just add an experienced baseball skipper and qualified leader, but they brought on board a qualified captain of industry, who returns to helm the Astros’ ship in 2023.
Baker, driven and motivated as both an investor and businessman, has a winery and an energy conservation firm on his resume.
It should be noted, also, that Baker’s clearly well-versed in the delicate art of delegation: He’s relying on people he’s trained in each of his business concerns to mind his respective “stores” while he’s been away, traveling the country, as he’s done the past three years, culminating in his first World Championship ring as a manager, and the Astros’ second ring in half-a-dozen years.
Baker’s talents in delegating not only served him well in 2020 at the helm of the Astros, but has proven to be absolutely necessary to employ as he’s successfully navigated a team ravaged by bad press, nasty fans, and a general dip in perception throughout the sport.
He was hired to undertake the unenviable chore of not only leading a baseball team in the traditional sense, but restoring the trust and integrity of an organization hemorrhaging both in the wake of the recent sign-stealing scandal.
No stranger to commerce and high finances, Baker has, through the years, sold cars and insurance. He even lost money during a brief real estate stint. In the late 1980s, after closing the door on his playing career, he was a stockbroker for a time before returning to baseball as a coach.
The Lure of the Grape
Founded by Baker and veteran winemaker Chik Brenneman as an “urban winery brand” specializing in handcrafted and limited production wines, B & B Wine Company began in 2013, the skipper’s final year (of six) as Cincinnati Reds’ manager.
This, after family and friends were heartily toasting Dusty, a Sacramento native, and his 2012 Vintage Syrah produced from his backyard “gentleman’s vineyard.” Syrah is a lush, fruity, and dark-skinned grape variety used to make red wines.
Now, Baker Family Wines produces handcrafted wines in small lots from grapes grown in their two-acre vineyard in Placer County. Baker Family Wines officially kicked off in earnest in 2015, about the time Dusty signed with the Washington Nationals to begin the 2016 season as their skipper.
Pitchers of Wine vs Pitchers Who Whine
With the grape-growing season roughly corresponding to the nine-month baseball season, Baker’s responsibilities tending his harvest sound quite similar to his diamond duties.
If you heard him talking about “constant vigilance throughout spring and summer to guard against disease, injury and fatigue,” you’d be hard-pressed to discern if his challenge was referring to players or grapes.
As Baker explained to the Washington Post in September 2016, “The similarities are, you have to put in the time, the work and the effort. You start by pruning the vines and getting them ready for the season.
“That’s what spring training is. But then you have to stay on top of everything. A farmer cannot rest and say, well I’ll get it next week. I go out there every day and check on my vineyard and my garden, because something can happen quickly.”
Along with pinching and pruning his grapes every evening, Baker also tends a garden with family edibles such as collard greens, kale, and something called elephant garlic, an outsized variant of the garden leek.
Canopy management, as it’s called, is also important for his grapes. Baker continues: “I have to keep the south side of the vines shady, while I want more sun on the north side. You really have to stay on top of it.
“That’s like baseball,” Baker intoned, knowingly. “As soon as you think we have it made and we’re playing great, suddenly we’re on a seven-or eight-game losing streak.”
Treating baseball players like grapes, and vice versa, may make for a challenging conundrum for most, especially taking into account a recent two-year foray into growing four vines of table grapes for eating, and his assessment: “They’re so sweet.”
Sol and Inspiration
At about the same time his winery was taking off, also between his Reds and Nats gigs, Baker founded a renewable energy start-up, Baker Energy Team, based near his Roseville, California home.
Focusing on sustainable energy solutions for companies and communities, BET provides “microgrid technologies that deliver affordable energy with improved efficiency, resiliency and sustainability,” according to their website.
Baker practices what he pitches, too, as solar panels liberally line his home and adjacent buildings and are even placed strategically behind his vineyard.
According to an article in the December 11, 2018, Bloomberg, Baker Energy Team is involved in “developing, pitching, and working on large projects for historically black universities, cannabis-growing operations, tribal reservations, and commercial businesses.”
Furthermore, Baker is “looking at mentorships with historically black colleges, such as internships for engineering students. He’s also working to start a similar business in electricity-hungry parts of Africa.”
An investment banker friend of Baker’s tipped him off to a couple of clean-tech conferences on the west coast and Las Vegas a few years ago. A glaring omission in the industry caught Baker’s eye and motivation: “There were no minorities, very few women,” Baker remembers. “This is an opening for me.”
Baker employs five associates, a handful of strategic advisors, and about ten independent sales reps.
Celebrate Good Times, Come On!
In addition to being in a world-renowned, legendary soul and disco band, Kool has a lengthy and committed humanitarian history of goodwill and social concerns for Africa.
By combining their life-long humanitarian commitments to the people of Africa, according to their website, Dusty and Kool (shown above) have now formed a new entity, Kool-Baker Global.
Along with Baker Energy’s strategic partners, Kool-Baker Global has over 100+ years of expertise in the renewable energy sector, and are currently involved in multiple energy projects in Africa.
FRONT ROW & BACKSTAGE recently featured Kool & the Gang’s 1980 #1 hit, “Celebration,” as sung in Spanish, as “Celebremos”!
In 2021, the Library of Congress selected “Celebration” (written by band members) for preservation in the National Recording Registry for being “culturally historically or aesthetically significant.”
What’s more, 2020 marked the official launch of Bell’s Le Kool Champagne, and Kool also recently added a new rosé champagne; perhaps it was Kool’s champagne that was the bubbly of choice for the Astros’ locker room celebration, Saturday night!
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