CLOSE TO DAD AND MOM
- Bochy was born in France while his father, an Army sergeant major, was stationed there at the time. He is the third child of of Rose and Gus Bochy. Bruce remembers his Dad relaxing each night listening to the Armed Forces Radio. Gus couldn't believe his son's arm strength and made him a catcher.
At one point, Bruce's father was a Sgt. Major in the U.S. Army stationed at the Pentagon, so young Bruce spent a portion of his youth living in Bailey's Crossing in Virginia. He played Little League and Babe Ruth baseball in Falls Church, Virginia, and was a member of 1974 league champion Stroube's Mobil in the Clark Griffith League.
Bruce remembers taking in Senators games at Robert F. Kennedy Stadium with his Dad. Bochy was 10 when he watched his first Major League game in Washington.
"It was huge when I was there to be able to come watch the Senators," Bochy said. "And also, to be able to come back (to Washington) and manage in the ballpark where I saw my first Major League game, it's pretty special."
Bochy credited having a Major League team in town when he was young with helping him become involved in baseball and getting him where he is today.
"I've got some great memories of my Dad and I coming here and watching the Senators," Bochy said during a trip to Washington to play the Nationals in July 2006. "Getting to see some of the great players, like Mickey Mantle and those guys. Of course, Ted Williams managed when I was here. What greater inspiration than for a young guy to come see a Major League game, and I actually had that opportunity." (Michael Walsh-MLB.com-6/7/06)
Bruce's father was the son of a West Virginian who worked in the coal mines and died in one. Bochy's mother, Melrose, grew up on a North Carolina tobacco farm, and she met Gus when he was stationed at Fort Bragg. They had four children, Bruce being the third, and the family lived the itinerant military life.
Gus Bochy was military to the core, even the way he talked.
"My Dad was serious," Bruce said. "He was tough. If I was sitting like this, slouching, he would yell at me, 'Stop sitting in that recumbent position.' "
Dinnertime was sacrosanct. The family ate together, on time, a rule that Bruce sometimes flouted, joking he was the "black sheep" of the family.
"He was an adventurous boy," Bruce's only sister, Terry, said from her home in Melbourne, Fla. "He was not one to sit idle at home. He was always out organizing games, sandlot games, whether it was kickball, dodgeball, football, baseball, basketball, horseshoes, darts. He could make a game out of anything, and he would lose track of time. We always ate together as a family, and he was always coming in late."
Terry Bochy said her brother was a "peacemaker and mediator," not unusual for a middle child, and seemed mature beyond his years. She recalled more than one instance from junior high and high school when one of Bruce's friends was struggling and the parents phoned Bruce for advice on straightening him out. (Henry Schulman-SF Chronicle-3/11/07)
His father, Gus Bochy, passed away in 1990. "My Dad was my biggest influence," Bruce says. "He loved baseball. He wasn't a guy who pushed the game, though. But when we did play baseball, he wanted us to play the game right. He had so much respect for it."
- When Bruce was just seven years old and fairly small for his age, he watched and screamed helplessly as his mother was pulled out into the Pacific Ocean by an undercurrent. Bochy's sister, Terry, was the one who came to the rescue. A competitive swimmer, she took hold of her panicked mother and pulled her back against the tide to safety, assisted to shore by United States servicemen stationed in the Panama Canal Zone.
"As a kid, I was real small," Bruce said. "I didn't grow until really the end of my junior year or senior year. You'd be surprised. My high school team, I'm the smallest guy. I'm sitting in the front row of the team picture with black glasses on. You'd think I was the batboy."
- In October 1994, when Bruce first got the idea the Padres would name him as manager, the first person he called was his mother, Melrose, back home in Melbourne, Florida.
Bochy's mother, Rose, had Alzheimer's disease. She was first diagnosed in 1995. On March 23, 2007, Melrose Bochy, Bruce's mother, died at age 78.
Bruce had previously lost his father to a heart attack at age 65.
- It was when his family was in Panama that Bochy developed his real love for the game of baseball. He played it everyday.
His brother, Joe, was a catcher in the Twins' organization from 1969-1974, but advanced only as far as Single-A.
"He was really the reason I got into baseball," Bruce recalls. "The Minnesota Twins drafted him out of high school. That's when I realized that, 'Hey, I can play professional baseball, too.'"
Bruce has always had the largest head in professional baseball: a size eight. "I've only had one helmet since I've been in the pros, and I've had to put seven coats of paint on it 'cause they don't custom-make helmets my size," Bochy said. There was a time, when "Boch" played in the minors, that he crushed a home run—one of the few dingers Bruce produced in his pro career—and amazingly, it was off of future Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan. And his minor league 'mates filled up his incredibly over-sized batting helmet with a six-pack of beer, packed in ice, waiting for him in his locker when he got there after the game.
MOVED TO FLORIDA
As a kid, Bruce was industrious, mowing lawns for money, delivering newspapers, and mopping the floor of a local Chinese restaurant.
In 1971, the Bochys settled into their Melbourne, Florida home, just a couple of miles from the Atlantic Ocean. But they were just a block from the Intracoastal Waterway, where they would fish all the time.
During the summer when Bruce was 18 years old, he had a job refinishing furniture in Melbourne, Florida. He had an accident with a chemical that at the time was used to strip furniture.
"The chemical's been banned now," Bochy says. "But I got some around my eye." It was so serious he was taken to Duke University's medical center. The chemical had damaged his pigment and muscles, leaving him with white eylashes, an eyelid that's a little droopy, and what looks like an albino eye. "I've taken some abuse about it over the years," Bruce says, laughing at some of those memories. "I remember one team I was playing for in the minors. One day, all the guys showed up with little pieces of white tissue on their eyes."
Bruce's wife, the former Kimberly Seib, from Satellite Beach, Florida, was also a student at Brevard Community College in Melbourne, Florida when they first met. They have a modest, 2,100-square foot home in the San Diego suburb of Rancho Penasquitos. They bought the home back in 1984, the year the Padres made their phenomenal World Series run with Bruce as the team's backup catcher.
Bruce and Kim have two sons, Brett (August 26, 1979) and Greg (August 8, 1987).
Bochy loves the thrill of sitting for hour upon hour at the blackjack table, riveted by the action and competitiveness.
"We'll be sitting next to each other at the blackjack table," said Tim Flannery, one of Bochy's coaches with the Padres, "And I'll be throwing out my nickel chips. Then, all of a sudden, he'll throw out two big piles of chips. I'll look at him, and he'll tell me: 'You can't win a war without dropping a bomb!'"
Bruce stopped using smokeless tobacco October 3, 1999. He just went cold-turkey, no patches, gums or pills. He went on an Alaskan hunting trip in part to get away from tobacco. "Kodiak's don't dip," Bochy said of the bears.
- Bruce suffered some minor injuries to his right ankle in a low-speed motorcycle accident near his home in a San Diego suburb, March 29, 2001. "My ankle just rolled over," Bochy said. He was riding an Indian motorcycle with Ryan Klesko.
- Normally, after every baseball season, Bochy goes to Colorado for a deer hunting trip with former teammate Goose Gossage. But Goose sold his ranch in 2003, so the October trip was off.
Bochy's big head probably gets mentioned too much, but here we go again, this time with a story from Trevor Hoffman, one of Bochy's closest friends. The Padres super-closer told this one from Bruce's playing days:
"He was down in the bullpen helping out the catching duties, and they called down and needed him to pinch-hit," Hoffman said, a smile beginning to crease his face, "He starts trucking down the back way through the tunnel in Qualcomm and he never shows up. They're all in the dugout wondering what happened to Bruce. He smoked his head on a beam underneath there and knocked himself out.
"I wasn't there," Hoffman said, "but just to think about his wrecking-ball head going into one of those beams; we're lucky the stadium didn't come down."
Bochy does not get agitated with big-head stories. He gets into the act.
"Tell you what," he said in a deep, gravelly voice that slightly hints at his Southern roots. "Having a big head is a problem. I had one helmet I had to carry with me everywhere, when I was traded or sent down or played winter ball. It probably has 15 coats of paint on it. It was a special-order helmet.
"I couldn't get anyone else's helmet on. One day I snapped and threw it down and broke it. I realized what I did, and it crushed me. It took a couple of weeks to get a new helmet."
Size 8, he said.
"When I played, they'd have accused me of using steroids, as big as my head is." (Henry Schulman-SF Chronicle-3/11/07)
Bruce's sister, Terry, who is 18 months older than Bruce, retired from the U.S. Customs Service to become a full-time caretaker for their Mom, who has had Alzheimer's for more than a decade and no longer recognizes Bruce.
Terry Bochy considers it not a burden, but a calling.
"We were raised in a Christian home, and this is what I felt the Lord called me to do," she said. "It really is an honor for me to care for her. When people commend me for what I'm doing for my mom, it's a testament to the type of mom my mother was. It wasn't hard to give her back what she did for me."
Bruce speaks reverently about his sister.
"Believe me," he said, "I'm hoping to ride her coattails into heaven." (Henry Schulman-SF Chrnoicle-3/11/07)
Bruce tells a story about one frigid night at San Francisco's Candlestick Park in 1984, when he was a catcher for the Padres.
The team's trainer, Dick Dent, played a practical joke and told Bochy he could warm his body by slathering Vaseline all over himself before getting dressed. Bochy did, and found the jelly just made him wet . . . and even colder.
Bochy recalled telling Dent, "If I get pneumonia, you better hope I die, because if I don't I'm going to kill you." (Henry Schulman-SF Chronicle-4/13/07)