Louisiana's Paul Bako gets start today for Cubs in Game 1 against Atlanta.
It was the site of his greatest moment as a professional baseball player.
It was Oct. 12, 2001, and the Atlanta Braves were trying to wrap up a National League Division Series over Houston at Turner Field in Atlanta.
Arriving in Atlanta the morning of the game, with wife Laurie enduring early contractions for their second child, former Lafayette High and University of Louisiana star catcher Paul Bako amazingly overcame the fatigue of a rushed plane flight to double, homer and drive in three runs in the clinching win over the Astros.
Bako will return to Turner Field today, with his son Will turning 2 years of age on Oct. 15, and now as a member of the Chicago Cubs against the Braves to open the National League Division Series.
Making it even more special is that Bako has been penciled in as the starter against Atlanta's Cy Young candidate Russ Ortiz in today's 7 p.m. Game 1 on Fox.
For Paul Bako to be the catcher of choice by Greg Maddux' during Greg's historic run at 300 wins, must be a sweet experience indeed.
Ragin' Cajun and current Cub catcher Paul Bako was behind the plate for Greg Maddux 295 win vs. the Astro's last night.
"Obviously, the breaks are going for us," Chicago catcher Paul Bako said. "We're getting great pitching and timely hitting just like we thought we would in spring training."
Not only was Bako behind the plate for the win but he contributed to the win when he doubled in Corey Patterson for the tying run in the seventh and was the go ahead score when he was driven in, giving the Cubs a 2-1 lead.
Keep kickin ~~~ Paul! Make UL proud, and show em all what UL`s made of.
I bet Foote is crying the blues, and would not go along with your suggestion to make UL proud!! BUT I GO ALONG WITH YOUR SUGGESTION!!!
Bako in 3rd year as batterymate of Cubs veteran
MILWAUKEE -- Paul Bako should be more than the answer to a trivia question when Greg Maddux collects his 300th victory.
Bako is in his third year as the designated catcher for the future Hall of Fame pitcher.
"It just kind of happened in Atlanta a few years ago, and then we weren't playing together for a couple of years," Bako said.
He and Maddux were teammates with the Braves in 2000 and 2001, then Bako moved on to the Brewers in 2002 and the Cubs last season.
"When Greg came over here, it became just a natural thing, I guess. Nobody spoke about it. It just kind of happened."
Cubs manager Dusty Baker made the call.
"Bako has caught him before," Baker said, "and I have to play Bako sometime to rest Michael Barrett. This is the perfect situation to do that and get Bako some at-bats. And it gives Greg a certain confidence and comfort level."
Bako was behind the plate as Maddux recorded victory No. 299, stifling the Milwaukee Brewers 7-1 Tuesday night at Miller Park.
"Greg is real nonchalant about 300. He's always thinking about the team first," Bako said. "That will be a huge milestone. It will be nice for him. I think he's looking forward to putting it behind him and taking care of the rest of the season."
Bako and Maddux talk baseball often.
"We go over the hitters, how the hitters like to attack him," Bako said. "For the most part we agree, but sometimes we'll have a difference of opinion or I'll say, 'You can go inside on this guy if you think you should go in.'
"But obviously he knows what he's doing. He's right 99 percent of the time."
Maddux threw just 79 pitches in Tuesday's six-inning outing. He allowed one run—Russell Branyan's long homer—on four hits, walking one and striking out six.
"His command and his location are impeccable," Bako said. "That goes with his preparation and how he wants to attack hitters. He has found a groove here the last few starts."
Maddux improved to 10-7 with the win.
He will be attempting to become the 22nd pitcher in major league history to reach 300 victories and the first to reach the mark in the National League since Steve Carlton on Sept. 23, 1983.
"He is a fiery competitor, more so than he lets on," Bako said. "He's definitely a gamer and he wants to be out there as long as he can. He runs the bases hard and he works on his hitting. He's pretty much the complete pitcher."
Maddux will seek his 300th victory Sunday afternoon at Wrigley Field against Philadelphia.
"Actually, it might be an honor to catch him," Bako said. "He likes me catching for him and I feel privileged to do so. It's a lot of fun. He is a heck of a guy to catch."
By Fred Mitchell
Tribune staff reporter
The Chicago Tribune
SAN FRANCISCO -- There's no need to wonder why Greg Maddux likes to throw to catcher Paul Bako. Besides being an excellent think-and-throw partner for him on the field, Bako emulates Maddux's understated manner off the field, too.
Asked for an interview after he helped Maddux win his 300th game, Bako hesitated. He didn't want to stand in plain sight in the clubhouse and suffer the onslaught of questioners. He directed a reporter down a hallway, trying to escape notice as he sipped on beer and reflected on one of the more rewarding professional relationships of his major-league career.
Before long, however, Bako was spotted by other media members, and he had drawn a crowd. When a TV camera showed up, Bako deftly hid the beer can behind his back. Image is everything. For Maddux and Bako, the hardest part of always being asked to explain how it all works is to go against their innate need for privacy at all costs. Sharing is not a natural talent easily learned by athletes.
"It's a cliche, but he is the consummate team guy,'' Bako said of what he respects about Maddux. "He is excited, but I think he is more relieved he got 300 and can move on and everybody can focus on the team now. Focus on the Cubs getting to the playoffs.''
With an 11-7 record, Maddux may now begin to pick up more speed than ever for the stretch run, Bako said.
"I wouldn't be surprised if he goes on a roll from here,'' he said. "He doesn't have the whole 300-win plateau on his agenda anymore with you guys. He can go about his business now like he likes to, and I'm sure his next goal will be to win 15 games this year and try to get us into the playoffs.''
Damage control has been the secret to Maddux's success. Bako pointed out that the ol' professor has taught him a trick or two that he didn't know before.
"He is real big on limiting damage in an inning,'' he said. "With a man on third and no outs early in the game, he's not trying to punch out a guy to save the run. He's trying to get an out early, keep his pitch count down and stay in the game. Limiting damage has helped him win a lot of games.
"Whereas some guys with man on third, no out, will try to strike a guy out. Greg will concede the run. I've learned a few things from him by just listening to him about limiting damage and simplifying the game.''
Maddux said that a pitcher has to check his ego at the door and rely on smart pitch selection to be a consistent winner. Unable to locate his fastball Saturday, Maddux just mixed and matched with more off-speed pitches than he wanted to throw, but he did it to the best of his ability even at less than his best.
"His sinker was moving a lot more than it has been at Wrigley,'' Bako said. "So it was a little tough for him to locate. He didn't have as good a stuff as he has the last three, four weeks. Obviously, he changed speeds good enough to win. He has done that a number of times.''
Maddux praised Bako for knowing how to manage him during games.
"That's why he is a good catcher,'' he said. "He calls an outstanding game and knows when to give me a breather [with visits to the mound].''
As for the other 21 pitching legends on the list of 300-game winners, Maddux understands that there are some awesome, breathtaking names from baseball history with whom he now lives forever.
"It's pretty special,'' he said. "I don't like to really look back, though. I like to look ahead. When I'm done playing, I'll look back. I'm sure I'll pat myself on the back then.''
Just as long as nobody is watching. Well, maybe Bako. They can pat each other on the back. Just no pictures please. Baseball is a game far too public for them. They like to guard as much privacy as possible and get in situations where no one has to hide a beer behind their back.
"It will probably sink in at the end of my career,'' Bako said of this day's importance. "I am going to look back and say, 'Wow, one of my jobs was to catch for him.'''
The source of the story
BY MIKE KILEY Staff Reporter Advertisement
NEW YORK - Paul
Bako is the personal catcher for Cubs pitcher Greg Maddux.
Bako may have another client in Mark Prior.
Bako and Prior worked together again Saturday, and the results were impressive. Prior pitched 7¿ innings and gave up 4 hits and no runs in the Cubs' 4-3 loss to the Mets in 11 innings.
It was the fifth time Prior threw to Bako this season. In those five games, he's 4-0 with an ERA of 0.79. With Bako behind the plate, Prior has pitched 34º innings and given up 29 hits and 3 earned runs. He has walked four and struck out 38.
Prior's record with No. 1 catcher Michael Barrett is 2-4. With Saturday being a day game following a night game, it was a good chance for manager Dusty Baker to give Barrett a rest and play Bako.
"They've been working pretty good together," Baker said. "Prior's had good success the last couple times with Bako. Plus, it's day after night. Things work out perfectly like that."
There are, () two members of the current Chicago Cubs who have Winston-Salem in their background. Catcher Paul Bako was here in both 1994 and 1995. Bench coach Dick Pole pitched three games for the Winston-Salem Red Sox in 1970.
Bako has recently caught his way into Cubs history. He was the catcher when Greg Maddox won his 300th major league game last month.
"That was awesome," Bako said about the landmark event in an interview with ESP last month at Wrigley Field in Chicago. "I'm very proud to have been a part of that game and very proud to be a part of Cubs history. It's obviously a once-in-a-lifetime type of thing." While Michael Barret sees most of the duty behind the plate these days for the Cubs, Bako is the man Maddox, a four-time Cy Young Award winner wants to catch when he's pitching.
"I think Greg just wants the same guy catching him all the time," said Cubs pitching coach Larry Rothchild. "We need somebody who can really throw behind the plate when Greg pitches because teams like to try to run on him. So its a good fit." In fact, Bako and Maddux had the same arrangement in 2000 and 2001when both were with the Atlanta Braves
" It's been an honor to catch for that guy," Bako said of Maddox. "He's easy to catch and you learn a lot from him by being around him. It worked out I guess from being in Atlanta and then being here with the Cubs. It was just a natural transition." Bako is the only current major leaguer who played for both the Winston-Salem Spirits and the Winston-Salem Warthogs. Don Beaver bought the team in 1994 and renamed them after the season had finished. His batting average improved 81 points his second year with the local team.
"I was just starting to learn the game there and I got a chance to build some pretty good friendships," Bako said. I'm still really good friends with Pat Watkins and Aaron Boone today." Boone, the Hogs third baseman in '96 played seven years with Cincinnati before making history last year with the New York Yankees by hitting the seventh-game walk-off home run against the Boston Red Sox that put the Yanks into the World Series. He is currently on the disabled list with the Cleveland Indians after breaking his leg playing basketball last winter. Watkins a native of Garner and an East Carolina alumnus was the star of the '94 spirits and played a little with Cincinnati, but is out of baseball now.
"He's in Raleigh working for a home builder," Bako said of Watkins.
LOUISIANA La. - Paul Bako didn't really know what to expect out of free agency.
For the first time since leaving the UL Ragin' Cajuns back in 1993, the former Lafayette High standout had something to say about where he was going to play baseball.
Putting off several offers to be a back-up catcher, Bako and his agent, Barry Meister, finally heard talk of something more, and they quickly jumped at it.
Consequently, Bako has signed a one-year, $650,000 contract to play with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Bako, 32, will share time behind the plate with David Ross, possibly as a left-right platoon. By virtue of being a veteran and left-handed hitter, Bako figures to get most of the starts, a fact that could help him financially. His contract calls for him to receive an additional $25,000 for each of 60, 75, 90 and 100 games started, meaning he could receive as much as $750,000.
"I'm very excited about it,'' Bako said. "I didn't really know what to expect from free agency, because I had never been a free agent before. It all came about pretty quickly. Several other clubs had showed some interest, but none seemed imminent.
"This seemed like a perfect fit. This one seems to give me the best chance to play.''
From the outside eye, things began clicking rapidly when the Dodgers failed to reach an agreement with veteran catcher Brent Mayne by last Saturday's deadline. Bako wasn't concerned about Mayne being an obstacle, though, because he has the same agent as Mayne.
"We kind of knew all along that Brent was going to retire,'' Bako said.
Bako never doubted that he'd get a job somewhere for next season. He was simply looking for the one that would offer him the best opportunity to maximize his at-bats.
Dodger Stadium has long had the reputation of being a pitcher's park, but Bako doesn't feel like that will adversely affect his hitting.
"I loved Chicago, but I'm looking forward to getting out of Wrigley from a hitter's standpoint,'' Bako said. "The grass is short at Dodger Stadium and in most of the stadiums in the N.L. West, which suits me better because I'm more of a line-drive hitter. I'm not a home run hitter.''
Bako also looks forward to catching a Dodgers' pitching staff that is expected to be led by veterans Derek Lowe, Odalis Perez and Jeff Weaver.
"It looks like they've got Lowe and Odalis has been one of the best lefties in the National League over the last couple of years,'' Bako said. "I'm really looking forward to working with that staff.''
VERO BEACH, Fla. (AP) - The New York Mets plugged a hole in their starting rotation Sunday, acquiring left-hander Kazuhisa Ishii from the Los Angeles Dodgers for catcher Jason Phillips.
Los Angeles has lacked offensive production behind the plate since trading Paul Lo Duca to Florida last July. David Ross entered camp as the incumbent, despite hitting just .170 last season, but is hitless this spring. Former Lafayette High and UL catcher Paul Bako is not known for his bat, either.
Dodgers general manager Paul DePodesta has said Bako will make the 25-man roster out of spring training, so Phillips' addition makes Ross' future uncertain. Ross will probably be released or sent to Triple-A Las Vegas.
I hope they give Bako a fair shot at playing regularly. The guy comes from solid stock and if allowed to play everyday would become a much better hitter than he is now. He has come a long way from sitting with his Dad at Lafayette Driller games
It's hard to imagine a professional baseball player actually feeling fortunate when a knee injury forces him to miss the remainder of the season prior to the All-Star break.
No, former Lafayette High and UL Ragin' Cajun catcher Paul Bako isn't having much fun these days.
He's just beginning the pain of physical therapy after a season-ending surgery on his left knee June 24.
Even worse, he can only watch as his Los Angeles Dodgers continue to struggle through an epidemic of injuries that has landed them in third place in the National League West entering the second half, despite a 40-48 start.
Time off the hard way, though, has allowed Bako to review the big picture. Add up his eight seasons in the Major Leagues, 4 1/2 in the minor leagues, three in college and four in high school and the opportunities for injury as a catcher have been almost too many to count.
And yet this is only Bako's second-ever trip to the disabled list. The first came in 2000 with the Florida Marlins.
Staying in Los Angeles for another try wouldn't have been the worst thing in the world for former Lafayette High and UL Ragin' Cajun catcher Paul Bako.
But when old manager Buddy Bell showed interest in him, it made his decision a lot easier.
So it'll be now eight different teams in nine Major League seasons for Bako when the Kansas City Royals make it official today that he's signed a one-year contract with their organization.
"I'm excited to be able to play for my first manager in the big leagues (in Detroit in 1998),'' Bako said. "In Los Angeles, it just didn't work out. My agent and the Dodgers talked and they were decent about it, but just didn't go quite as far as we had hoped.
Surprise, Ariz. — Paul Bako is happy just to be playing again. Bako homered twice and had four RBIs on Thursday in the Kansas City Royals’ 12-4 victory over a Texas Rangers split squad.
The career .239 hitter, best known as the longtime personal catcher for Greg Maddux, missed all but 13 games with the Los Angeles Dodgers last season because of a knee injury.
“It was just one of those days for the home runs,” Bako said. “The best part was feeling like a player again instead of a rehab patient.”
Bako’s three-run homer in the second inning, his first of spring training, helped the Royals open a 4-0 lead. Kevin Mench made it 4-1 in the bottom half with his third home run of the spring.
Bako added a solo shot as the Royals scored five runs in the fourth. Doug Mientkiewicz, who went 3-for-3, added a two-run single in the inning.
Phil Nevin hit his fourth homer of spring training for Texas, a three-run drive.
Good to see Bako hitting.
Paul Bako, who has a partially torn right oblique muscle, on the 15-day disabled list. source
Paul Bako has done pretty well for a guy who didn't have a job until Feb. 1.
Bako came to the Reds as a non-roster free agent. He made the club partially because David Ross started the year on the disabled list.
He since has moved into the role of No. 1 catcher and Friday made his eighth start in the Reds' 11 games.
"It's a lot of fun," Bako said. "Like I said before, being predominantly a backup, you don't play a lot. To get a chance is a lot of fun."
Bako has responded. The Reds' ERA with him in the game was 2.63 going into Friday.
Reds manager Dusty Baker has given Bako lots of credit for the early success of rookie pitchers Johnny Cueto and Edinson Volquez.
"Even coming from the minor leagues, I always took pride in how well the pitcher does or doesn't do," Bako said. "I take pride in it. But, at the same time, these guys are the ones throwing the ball. They're doing the job."
Bako has held his own at the plate.
He had one hit Friday and is batting .346 with a hit in each of his last six games (9-for-19).
The job Bako's done has made Ross' return less urgent.
Ross was transferred from Sarasota to Triple-A Louisville to continue his rehab assignment. He was going to DH Friday and catch today.
BY JOHN FAY
Former Cajun standout Paul Bako is thriving for the Cincinnati Reds. Bako, who signed with the Reds as a non-roster free agent on Feb. 1, recently became the team's starting catcher as David Ross continues a minor-league rehab assignment.
Bako's presence has led to success this season. As of Friday, the Reds had logged a 2.63 ERA with him in the game. After getting one hit on Friday, he was hitting .346 with a hit in each of his last six games, going 9-for-19 over that stretch.