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.
"I was playing Little League when I was seven years old," Bruce recalled. "I was underage, but they let m play because I'd been playing so much that they said, 'Hey, he can hang with the 12-yea olds.' Baseball was in my dad's blood. He had the Cincinnati Reds on the radio every day they played. So, I grew up in a family that loved baseball.
"My dad was a big Reds fan. He was from West Virginia and he was a big Fred Hutchinson fan, the old manager. I became a big Reds fan and Vada Pinson was my favorite player. his is going back in the 60s. And of course, I was a huge Frank Robinson fan and then the Big Red Machine. Later on, as I'm going to high school and started catching, Johnny Bench was the guy. I would skip school in Melbourne, Florida, and ride over to Tampa (where the Reds trained to watch him play." (Baseball Digest - Sept., 2019)
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)
Bochy became a grandfather for the second time when son Brett's wife, Lesley, gave birth to Blakely Grace on August 4, 2018. It is Bochy's first granddaughter. (Magruder - mlb.com - 8/5/18)
Dec 12, 2018: Echoing the new front office's desire to leave everything on the table, Giants manager Bruce Bochy said at the 2018 Winter Meetings that he'll be open to using players in non-traditional roles to get the most out of his roster in 2019. That includes a willingness to experiment with openers.
"I think anytime you could get creative to help win a ballgame, you should do it," Bochy said during his 20-minute session with reporters at the Winter Meetings. "I think it's important that you do stay open-minded. There's been some changes in the game, and of course that's one of them, using an opener. That's going to be driven by your personnel, your roster. You see where you're at, and in your mind if you have to do it to give you a better chance to win a ballgame, I'm all for it."
Giants pitchers aren't the only group that could be deployed differently next season, as president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi said he's also considering platooning certain position players to create more favorable matchups. Bochy acknowledged that he'll likely have to have conversations with some of his veteran players about their potentially evolving roles.
"You've got to sit down with the players, say, 'Listen, we're going to probably do things a little bit different sometimes,'" Bochy said. "Roles won't quite be as defined, possibly. But that's always been the case in baseball. It's probably a little more common today, especially when you're trying to get more versatility, more flexibility on your roster. You want them to have a heads up, not be surprised by anything. And also just remind them that the best way to get where we want to go is to have an unselfish attitude. Just do whatever you think or what we think is the best way to win a ballgame, and got to get them to buy into this."
Still, Zaidi has made it clear that whatever strategies the Giants choose to pursue will ultimately depend on the composition of their roster in 2019. It's still too early to predict what type of talent the club will have at its disposal come Opening Day, but Bochy is certain he won't be using openers on days Madison Bumgarner is lined up to pitch. While Bochy's old-school style stands in contrast to Zaidi's analytical background, the skipper said their interactions have been positive so far.
"We all know he's very, very bright," Bochy said. "He's got new ideas, he's very creative, very into analytics. But he has deep respect for people in baseball on the scouting side, development side. He's a listener. He's the man in charge, but he wants to hear what you have to say and he respects that. And so I think he keeps a balance, and it's not his way or the highway." (M Guradado - MLB.com - Dec 12, 2018)
Feb 18, 2019: Bruce Bochy followed his gut when he accepted an offer to start managing the Giants ahead of the 2007 season. That same gut feeling is now telling him it's time to start bracing for something new. Bochy, who guided the Giants to three World Series championships in 2010, '12 and '14, announced that he will retire at the end of the 2019 season, capping a celebrated 25-year managerial career in the Majors.
"In my mind, it's time," said Bochy, who is entering his 13th season with the Giants. "It's been an unbelievable ride. There is so much I'm grateful for, with the players, the city, the fans. It's time now." Bochy, who turns 64 in April, informed Giants players of his decision during a team meeting prior to the club's first full-squad workout of the spring. First baseman Brandon Belt said Bochy began to get emotional and didn't spend too much time dwelling on the announcement.
"I think I was a little shocked," Belt said. "He's been around for every single year that I've been here. You think that it might be coming, but it's still a little surprising to hear it coming out of his mouth. We're just going to do what we can to try to make it a memorable last year for him."
Bochy began contemplating retirement at the end of last season and said the decision is of his own volition. He underwent an angioplasty in February 2015 and is recovering from offseason hip-replacement surgery, though he said health was not a factor in his decision. Neither was the Giants' decision to hire Farhan Zaidi as their new president of baseball operations.
"I couldn't be more adamant about that," Bochy said. "This is my decision. It's not something to think about last week. We talked about it at the end of the season. I don't want to burden them with wondering about my situation. I didn't want any distractions. Ever since I moved to San Francisco in 2007, the city and our awesome fans have embraced me. I'm going to miss it, but I'm so grateful for the last 12 years and am looking forward to finishing strong this season."
Giants president and CEO Larry Baer said Zaidi was aware that Bochy was considering retiring when he interviewed for his job in November. Baer said Zaidi will spearhead the search for Bochy's successor after the season ends. Bench coach Hensley Meulens and third-base coach Ron Wotus are among the internal candidates who could be considered for the opening. Bochy will be a strong candidate for the National Baseball Hall of Fame once he completes his career as a manager. He also led the Padres to the NL pennant in 1998 and is one of only 10 managers in history to have won three World Series; the other nine are already enshrined in Cooperstown.
"To me, he's a lock," Baer said. "The city of San Francisco is very proud of him, and as we go through the season we will obviously have tributes. But I think the ultimate tribute will be Cooperstown. To us, it's a no-brainer." (M Guardado - MLB.com - Feb 18, 2019)
April 5, 2019: Bochy: Home opener was 'a day I'll never forget'.
Endings loomed large in the pregame festivities that accompanied the Giants home opener at Oracle Park. Giants broadcaster Mike Krukow read a speech written by the late Peter Magowan, who lost his battle with cancer before he could deliver the discourse himself at his planned induction into the club’s Wall of Fame. An outline of the No. 44 was etched near first base in honor of Hall of Famer Willie McCovey, another Giants luminary who recently passed away. After a tribute video played on the new scoreboard, Brandon Belt walked over to first and lifted the base -- which bore the No. 44 -- out of the dirt to present it to the McCovey family.
Shortly thereafter, the Giants streamed onto the field and formed a crescent around the mound to watch manager Bruce Bochy deliver the ceremonial first pitch. Bochy, who plans to retire at the end of the season, received an extended standing ovation from the sellout crowd before tossing the ball to Pablo Sandoval.
“It was a really special moment,” Bochy said. “I really appreciate what they did. It blew me away, to be honest. It was really overwhelming.”
@BruceBochy, Thank you fans for today. It was something I’ll never forget.
“I think he definitely deserved that,” Belt said. “He deserved to feel how much love that people have for him around here. It’s kind of crazy watching him get emotional like that because he is the leader of this team. He’s led this team through the good times and the bad. To see him get emotional, it chokes you up a little bit.” (M Guardado - MLB.com - April 5, 2019)
June 4, 2019: One would have thought that the Giants won the World Series after they defeated the Mets, 9-3, in 10 innings at Citi Field. There was a reason for the celebration. Bruce won his 1,000 game in a Giants uniform as manager and became the second manager -- with John McGraw as the other -- in franchise history to reach that win plateau.
It has been 13 years since Bruce managed the Padres, but every visit to Petco Park remains a reunion. Familiar faces are around every corner. One visitor to Bochy’s office was the man who gave him his first managerial job. Tom Romenesko, now a D-backs pro scout, was the Padres’ farm director in the 1980s when Bochy transitioned from being a big league catcher to a Triple-A player/coach to a manager at the lowest levels of the Minors.
“I always had a feeling, but I remember when I knew he was going to be a Major League manager,” Romenesko said. “No. 1, he cared about his players. Luis Lopez tore his knee up in Riverside. Who took him to the doctor [in San Diego] the next day? Bruce Bochy. We didn’t have the staff. I was calling up there -- how are we going to get him down here? ‘Oh, I’ll take him,’ Bochy said. That’s when I knew.”
Bochy broke into a grin at the memory, his mischievous wit stirring. “He was my best player!” Bochy said. “I wanted to get him healthy quick.”
Bochy’s Major League playing career ended after the 1987 season. He knew he was just about done and was exploring coaching opportunities. At the same time, Romenesko saw the same career path ahead for him. The Padres offered a player/coach job at Triple-A Las Vegas, a chance to learn the ropes of coaching under manager Steve Smith while also tutoring the pitching prospects and a young catcher named Sandy Alomar Jr.
One problem: Alomar suffered a late-season injury that forced Bochy to play more than planned, 53 games in all. “I went down there to do more coaching than catching,” Bochy said. “Next thing I know, I’m the everyday catcher. This isn’t what I signed up for. It’s 115 degrees. I haven’t really worked out like a player would. I’m throwing batting practice every day. I’m hitting fungos. All of a sudden, I’m behind the plate. … I’m pretty beat up. Those are some long games in the PCL.”
One of the reasons Bochy got beat up was a wild left-hander by the name of Kevin Towers. Romenesko paired Bochy and Towers as manager and pitching coach at Class A Short Season Spokane in 1989. Those two reunited in the big leagues as manager and general manager of the Padres a few years later.
In 2019, Bochy is in his 25th season as a big league manager, and his 13th with San Francisco. On July 3, 2019, he was 37 wins away from 2,000 and, with three World Series titles, has a strong argument for the Hall of Fame. He announced in Spring Training 2019, that this is his final season with the Giants.
Today, it’s fashionable to hire a manager with no experience at the job. But Bochy believes his four years as a Minor League manager were invaluable. “Huge benefit. I’ve always felt that,” Bochy said. “I wasn’t ready to manage in the Major Leagues when I went to Spokane. Dealing with all the different things you deal with. I had a player walk in and say he’s homesick. All the different situations that come up, you learn from it. I needed that experience.” (O'Neill - mlb.com - 7/2/19)
August 25, 2019: Madison Bumgarner strolled into Bruce’s office and informed his longtime manager that he was on the verge of a notable milestone. Up until that point, Bochy had no idea that the Bay Bridge Series finale would mark his 4,000th game as a manager. “You know, you’re really old,” Bumgarner said.
The same thought dominated Bochy’s mind as he mulled over what it meant to become the eighth manager to reach the threshold. The other seven are in the Hall of Fame, and Bochy is a virtual lock to join them.
“I’m getting up there,” Bochy said. “That’s really what it is. It’s longevity. I’m fortunate that I’ve had some people support me and keep me around. That’s a lot of games, though. I never thought about it. I look back and it just kind of flew by, to be honest. It’s flying by now.”
The Giants honored Bochy with a cake shaped like the number 4,000 before the game, and the day became even sweeter after his club rallied to beat the A’s, 5-4, at the Coliseum to clinch The Bridge trophy. (Gaurdado - mlb.com)
Bochy's wife, Kim shared some thoughts about Bruce's on-field and off-field career.
Asked: When you and Bruce started dating, did you envision sharing a life in MLB?
"No. I was 18 and he was 19 and we were in college. He didn't think of baseball as a career at that point. We started dating in February and he signed with the Houston Astros in June of that year. But even then, we didn't think of it as a life sentence," Mrs. Bochy said.
You are a doula -- can you explain what that entails.
"A doula provides instruction and physical and emotional support during a mother's labor. I was a volunteer doula for a number of years at UC-San Diego."
Have you helped deliver any Giants babies?
"I've helped deliver close to 100 babies, and it's a miracle every single time. I did help with deliveries for Amanda Sabean (wife of former Executive VP of Baseball Operations Brian Sabean), and two children for Gyselle Meulens (wife of bench coach Hensley Meulens).
Sept 18, 2019: Bochy, who earned his first managerial victory on April 27, 1995, in his second game with the Padres, became just the 11th big league manager to reach the 2,000-win milestone.
He joined Connie Mack (3,731), John McGraw (2,763), Tony La Russa (2,728), Bobby Cox (2,504), Joe Torre (2,326), Sparky Anderson (2,194), Bucky Harris (2,158), Joe McCarthy (2,125), Walter Alston (2,040) and Leo Durocher (2,008), all of whom are in the Hall of Fame.
September 22, 2019: Bruce’s job status will officially change in a few days. But he has already morphed into a new figure. He might as well no longer be Bruce Bochy, manager of the San Francisco Giants. He has become Bruce Bochy, icon.
That’s a label which Bochy himself would spit a mouthful of tobacco juice upon -- that is, if he hadn’t quit using nicotine-based products several years ago. He refuses to bask in the superlatives aimed his way.
“He’s still the same person that I met. Still low-maintenance,” said Bochy’s wife, Kim, referring to the somewhat gangly 19-year-old she first encountered in Florida.
And yet, the 64-year-old Bochy has spent the decades since distinguishing himself as one of history’s most successful baseball managers. It’s a highly difficult and stressful job that requires practitioners to excel at psychology as well as strategy. It demands knowledge -- not only of one’s own ballplayers, but also those on other clubs. Such knowledge must be a compendium of a player’s past, present and immediate possible future. A manager must master the ability to anticipate how a ballgame will develop long before actual events occur and decide what tactics he will use to respond. And he had better act quickly.
Bochy played this high-stakes chess game well enough during 25 seasons to win World Series championships in 2010, '12, and '14 with the Giants, who had remained a storied but mostly luckless franchise until his arrival in ‘07. Before his San Francisco tenure, he spent 12 seasons managing the San Diego Padres to one World Series and four National League West division titles. On Sept. 18, Bochy recorded his 2,000th Major League managerial victory. The other 10 men to accomplish this milestone earned enshrinement into baseball’s Hall of Fame, an honor that awaits Bochy.
In a voice husky with emotion, Pittsburgh’s Clint Hurdle, who has managed 17 big league seasons, recently called Bochy “the best manager of my generation.”
The nostalgia surrounding Bochy has remained as thick as San Francisco fog since he announced at the outset of Spring Training 2019 that he will retire after the season. Widespread praise -- as well as plenty of gifted bottles of wine -- have come his way since he made those plans public. And the celebration will reach a crescendo as the Giants return home for the final homestand of 2019.
All eyes will be on No. 15 (Haft - mlb.com)
Yet any look back at Bochy’s career ought to be more than whimsical. Understanding how “Boch” became Boch -- a man who has commanded such respect and behaved with such integrity -- requires a look back at what shaped him and how he shaped himself along the way.
Baseball is like a family heirloom, passed from generation to generation. Fathers playing catch with sons, as poet Donald Hall eloquently put it. Thus, it’s fitting that Bochy is quick to cite his father, Gus, as his most significant influence in his baseball career.
“He’s the one who really inspired me to develop a passion for baseball and was the guy who really played the biggest role in my career, both as a kid, and after I signed, with his support,” Bochy said. “Also, his knowledge. He coached me in Little League, played catch, threw batting practice and all those things. That’s something I’ll never forget.”
Gus was a fleet, switch-hitting shortstop as a youth. “He was disappointed that we did not inherit his running speed,” noted Bruce’s brother, Joe.
Gus Bochy was also a sergeant major in the Army, and that job required his family to move every three years. Excelling in athletics helped young Bruce cope with the transitions.
“Sports was a way for me to make new friends,” Bochy said. “It’s tough for a kid to pack up and leave your friends and go to a place where you don’t know anybody. It’s not easy, especially the older you get. You get to junior high and high school, and you’re making that move. It can be clique-ish because they don’t know who you are.”
Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, who played for Bochy in San Diego and San Francisco, emphasized the importance of the military-athletics connection. Roberts’ father served in the Marines.
“By default, as a military child, when you’re moving around every three years, to assimilate with people, you have to be open, you have to be friendly,” Roberts said. “And I think that helped me adapt to all types of people. I look back at my teammates and being friends with pitchers, position players, Latin players, American players, East Coast, West Coast. It became easy to me. And when you’re talking about coaching or managing, you need to get all those components to work together for one common goal.” (Haft - mlb.com - 9/22/19)
At 6 feet 3 inches tall, Bruce was an ideal choice to play first base as a freshman at Brevard (Fla.) Community College. A year later, a decision made by Brevard coach Jack Kenworthy changed Bochy’s career path. He moved Bochy to catcher, the cradle of numerous managerial careers.
Seeing the entire field and being involved in every pitch when their teams are on defense are just two aspects of the position that make catchers ideal candidates to manage. Additionally, catchers must learn the tendencies and personalities of each pitcher. From there, it’s just another step or two to be able to analyze the entire ballclub.
“I look back at what Jack did for me and I’m very appreciative of him and his coaching, but also for being a mentor,” Bochy said.
Bochy’s professional baseball journey began after the Houston Astros selected him in the first round (24th overall) in the 1975 Supplemental Draft, which was reserved for previously drafted players (the White Sox picked Bochy in the eighth round of the regular draft earlier that year but he didn’t sign). A stroke of luck brought Bochy and the Astros together.
Bob Cluck, then the Astros’ Minor League coordinator, recalled that he needed to organize a practice game for some players left in camp, which led to a scrimmage against the nearby Brevard ballclub. An Astros coach advised Kenworthy to brace himself -- they had six or seven players with above-average speed who liked to show it off by stealing bases. One by one, they were humbled by Bochy, who threw out each of them on attempted thefts. Cluck quickly telephoned the Astros’ scouting department. “Is this guy on your radar?” Cluck inquired. “Because he’s a hell of a catcher.”
Bochy hit a rousing .338 in rookie-level ball through the remainder of the 1975 season and played 69 games at Double-A Columbus (Ga.) the following year. But he slipped back to Class A in 1977. Bochy had hopes of breaking camp with Houston’s Triple-A Tucson affiliate in ‘78. However, he was sent to Double-A as a backup.
Bochy felt like quitting, and he said so to Cluck, then the Columbus manager. "I’m thinking, well, I might need to start looking at what I’m going to do with the rest of my life,” Bochy said. “It wasn’t looking too good.”
Cluck, a genial and positive man by nature, maintained his sunny attitude while talking with Bochy. “I told him that it’s amazing what happens to catchers. Stick it out for this year,” Cluck said.
As it turned out, Joe Ferguson was traded to the Dodgers in early July, and a couple of other catchers were injured. On July 19, 1978, Bruce Douglas Bochy made his Major League debut, going 2-for-3 in the Astros’ 2-1 loss at New York.
What Bochy didn’t know was that the Astros already saw something more. “The one thing we recognized about him was that he was smart, a leader,” Cluck said. “We considered him a potential coach in the Major Leagues.” (Haft - mlb.com - 9/22/19)
Retirement? The time has come for Bruce to ease up on the accelerator. After all these years in baseball, he might struggle to walk away from it. The game doesn’t let go of its lifers so easily. “Oh, he’s going to miss a lot of it,” Kim Bochy said. “And he’s going to miss the guys, and even all the ups and downs and the trials and tribulations that go on, on a daily basis, and the fires he has to put out.”
Many observers believe that though Bochy is a devoted grandfather, he’ll remain involved with baseball somehow. Projecting him as a consultant or special assignment scout is easy. Yet as an individual who trusted his soul instead of the spreadsheets that many contemporary managers embrace, he might indeed separate himself from MLB.
During an interview in the fall of 2019, Bochy mentioned the possibility of coaching Team France in an upcoming qualifying tournament (he was born in Landes de Bussac, France, during one of his itinerant father’s stops around the globe).
Whatever decisions Bochy makes will be well-considered. When a reporter carelessly suggested that he might have operated by the seat of his pants in Game 7 of the 2014 World Series -- the Madison Bumgarner game -- Bochy said with a slight edge in his voice, “I don’t manage by the seat of my pants.”
Of course. While ascending from anonymity to the pinnacle of baseball success, Bochy knew exactly what he was doing every step of the way.
Said Randy Smith, “He was a backup catcher, an up-and-down guy most of his career. So I think he spent a lot of time watching, listening, talking. I think he just soaked all that in and somehow, in that big head of his, it all came together, and he’s become one of the greatest managers in history.” (Haft - mlb.com - 9/22/19)
Bruce drove down to South San Francisco on the morning of September 24, 2019, to enjoy breakfast with longtime clubhouse manager Mike Murphy. As the two walked around the area, Bochy was frequently stopped by Giants fans, many of whom wanted to thank him for helping to bring three World Series championships to the city over his 13-year tenure as manager.
More expressions of gratitude were awaiting Bochy as he entered his final homestand with the Giants. “Thank you, Boch” banners have been strewn all over Oracle Park this month, including Willie Mays Plaza. Giants players arrived from their road trip to find their lockers outfitted with new placards featuring a “Thank you, Boch” decal.
The Giants will honor Bochy with tributes from special guests throughout the week, culminating with a final farewell ceremony following September 29th’s regular-season finale.
“I’ll have some emotions running through me,” Bochy said. “There’s no getting around that. I’m looking forward to watching our guys one last time here at home against Colorado and L.A. I’m going to keep myself busy, so I don’t think about it too much. But with that said, I’ve got a lot of friends coming in, so the emotions are going to be passing through me quite a bit here. I’m just thankful that I’ve had such a great time here. Thirteen years in this wonderful city and these fans. I’m going to enjoy this last week.” (Guardado - mlb.com - 9/24/19)
Sept 30, 2019: Bruce Bochy still remembers the letters he received from fans urging him to start Madison Bumgarner on short rest in Game 4 of the 2014 World Series against the Royals. The Giants were facing a 2-1 deficit and Bumgarner was by far their best starter, but Bochy chose to stick with Ryan Vogelsong and save Bumgarner for Game 5.
“I felt for us to win the World Series that [Bumgarner] had to go Game 5,” Bochy said. “I needed to win Game 4 and 5. Instead of going down in Kansas City, I wanted to be up a game to have a little margin of error.”
The plan worked. The Giants won Game 4 and 5 en route to beating the Royals in seven games, securing their third World Series title in five years.
Every move is subject to scrutiny in October, but if there’s one lesson Bochy learned over his decorated 25-year managerial career, it’s to block out the noise and trust his gut. It’s a maxim he hopes other managers will heed as they prepare to guide their own clubs through the postseason this fall.
“Stay with what you believe,” Bochy said. “You’re there for a reason. Sure, you have talent, but your decisions have probably been really good ones. Don’t be influenced by outside people because everybody is going to have an opinion on what you should do, or how you should do it.
“Just trust your instincts and go with it.” (M Guardado - MLB.com - Sept 30, 2019)