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Military veteran Dusty Baker opens up about Colin Kaepernick protest

Military veteran Dusty Baker opens up about Colin Kaepernick protest

Among today’s prominent figures in Major League Baseball, there are few with a better perspective on the link between sports and social issues than Dusty Baker.

Back in his playing days as a member of the Atlanta Braves, Baker had a front row seat to some of the racist venom thrown Hank Aaron’s way as the Hall of Famer approached Babe Ruth’s all-time home run record. Years earlier, he served in the military at a time when Muhammad Ali was one of the most polarizing citizens in the country for refusing to go to war. Add in the instances in which he personally faced discrimination en route to becoming one of the few African American managers in the big leagues, and it’s easy to why the Nationals skipper's viewpoint is relevant in 2016.

It's because of those experiences that the 67-year-old wasn’t surprised when he saw the uproar following San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s decision to sit down during the national anthem in protest of what he described to NFL.com as “a country that oppresses black people and people of color.”

“I've seen the backlash on my own, you know what I mean?” the manager said in his office Monday.

Baker echoed the sentiments of some of Kaepernick’s supporters, saying that the quarterback is within his first-amendment right to protest during the anthem. And as someone who served in the Marine Corps Reserves from 1969 to 1975, Baker joined the segment of veterans who stated over the past week that they didn’t view his action as a slight at them.

"I didn't take it like that, and I've been in the military” he said. “Maybe some other people did. You can't answer for other people. And if you feel that strongly in your convictions, you stand by your convictions.”

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The initial wave of criticism Kaepernick received ranged from charges that he was unpatriotic to the notion that rich athletes have no room to complain about perceived oppression. None of that rhetoric seemed to phase Baker, who came of age in an era when it was the norm for athletes pushing for change to be vilified.

"Usually you are by yourself when you stand up,” Baker said. “That's what standing up kind of means. Most of the time you're by yourself. [Kaepernick’s got] a lot of people talking."

Those people, according to Baker, aren’t in the Nationals clubhouse. Since the Kaepernick story took off in recent days, he said he’s had little discussion with his players about the protest or any of its underlying issues. And that aversion to politics is consistent with how he’s been his entire managerial career.

“I let [the players] be themselves,” Baker said. “They have different religions out there, different languages, different political beliefs, different parties, different everything. With my age and everything, how much influence can I have over them? And how much influence would they have had over me?"

However, Baker is still steadfast in his own beliefs, even if he won’t always fully share them with those around him. Though his time abroad with the Marines helped him establish his worldview and further appreciate his country, that doesn’t mean he’s unaware of its imperfections.

“There’s such thing as some police brutality,” he said. “There's good people and bad people...and good and bad cops everywhere. It's human nature."

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Its Day 1 of spring training and Bryce Harper is already done taking questions regarding his future

Its Day 1 of spring training and Bryce Harper is already done taking questions regarding his future

So if you have not heard, Bryce Harper is going to be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the 2018 season.

All off-season talking heads, baseball aficionados, radio hosts, etc. were speculating on where the outfielder’s destination will be next year.

And we are still a year away from it actually happening.

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Reporting to spring training on Monday, Harper did not waste any time telling the media how his press conferences were going to play out this season.

“If guys do [ask], or talk anything about that, I will be walking right out the door.”

Entering his seventh season with the Washington Nationals, the 25-year-old is coming off the second-best season, statistically, of his career. The 2015 NL MVP has hit .285 in his career, with 150 home runs and 421 RBIs. Unquestionably he is the face of the Nationals’ organization, if not, the best player in the team’s history.

If he does end the season without a contract extension, he will join Rafael Palmeiro, Alex Rodriguez, Randy Johnson, and Barry Bonds as the top sought out free agents in MLB history.

One thing is for certain in terms of Harper’s free agency; Harper has given no inclination on where his landing spot will be.  The top three cities are of course his favorite childhood team, the New York Yankees; joining with one of his closest friends with the Chicago Cubs; or just staying with Washington.

Wherever he does land, it does appear that it will be the largest contract given to a free agent ever.

As for now we just wait and direct any of your calls to his agent Scott Boras.

READ ALSO: NATIONALS FULL SPRING TRAINING SCHEDULE

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Nationals Spring Training Schedule 2018

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USA Today Sports Images

Nationals Spring Training Schedule 2018

Now that pitchers and catchers have reported, the next step in our long journey to Opening Day is the spring training games themselves. Not every game is televised, so get ready to follow along with your favorite beat writer's Twitter account for all your updates.

Even without getting to watch the games, it'll still be exciting to once again check box scores in the morning to see if Bryce Harper homered again, or if Max Scherzer is perfect through 4 innings (spoiler: both of these will happen).

This year's spring training will be especially interesting, considering how many big-name players will be signing contracts in the next few weeks. The Nats are always willing to make a big splash, and even beyond the available free agents, have been linked to impact players like J.T. Realmuto in trade rumors.

Typically, the excitement of adding a new piece to the roster has to be reignited after a long winter off, but this season, those additions will be happening while camp is already underway.

It's going to be a hectic few weeks as teams prepare for their seasons, so bookmark this page to check on the Nationals spring training schedule over the next few weeks as the team finally takes the field in 2018.

Nationals 2018 Spring Training Schedule

Friday, Feb. 23 - Nationals at Astros, 1:05 pm (MLBN)
Saturday, Feb. 24 - Nationals at Marlins, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Feb. 25 - Braves at Nationals, 1:05 pm (MASN)
Monday, Feb. 26 - Nationals at Braves, 1:05 pm
Tuesday, Feb. 27 - Marlins at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Wednesday, Feb. 28 - Nationals at Marlins, 1:05 pm
Thursday, Mar. 1 (SS) - Nationals at Braves, 1:05 pm
Friday, Mar. 2 (SS) - Nationals at Mets, 1:10 pm
Saturday, Mar. 3 - Nationals at Astros, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 4 (SS) - Tigers at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 4 (SS) - Nationals at Mets, 1:10 pm
Monday, Mar. 5 - Nationals at Cardinals, 1:05 pm
Tuesday, Mar. 6 (SS) - Astros at Nationals, 1:05 pm (MASN)
Wednesday, Mar. 7 - Nationals at Cardinals, 1:05 pm
Thursday, Mar. 8 - Mets at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Saturday, Mar. 10 - Nationals at Astros, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 11 - Cardinals at Nationals, 1:05 pm (MASN)
Monday, Mar. 12 - Nationals at Tigers, 1:05 pm (MLBN)
Tuesday, Mar. 13 (SS) - Mets at Nationals, 7:05 pm (MLBN) (MASN)
Thursday, Mar. 15 - Astros at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Friday, Mar. 16 (SS) - Cardinals at Nationals, 1:05 pm (MASN)
Saturday, Mar. 17 - Mets at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 18 - Nationals at Cardinals, 1:05 pm
Monday, Mar. 19 - Nationals at Marlins, 1:05 pm
Tuesday, Mar. 20 - Marlins at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Wednesday, Mar. 21 - Astros at Nationals, 1:05 pm (ESPN2) (MASN)
Thursday, Mar. 22 - Nationals at Mets, 6:10 pm
Friday, Mar. 23 (SS) - Astros at Nationals, 6:05 pm (MASN)
Friday, Mar. 23 - Nationals at Marlins, 7:05 pm
Saturday, Mar. 24 - Marlins at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 25 - Cardinals at Nationals, 1:05 pm (MLBN)
Tuesday, Mar. 27 (at Nationals Park) - Twins at Nationals, 4:05 pm