Ask The Coach: On Bruce Bochy

Bruce Bochy just won his second World Series ring in three years, and baseball fans across the country probably recognize his face by this time.  Knowing him as I do, however, I’m sure it wouldn’t bother him if no one recognized him but his players.  Boch’  has stamped his legacy quietly¸ letting  the results speak for him.  From twelve seasons with San Diego to the past six with San Francisco, he has lived in quiet, successful West Coast near-anonymity.

While watching the Giants play – which isn’t often enough here on the East Coast – I see a face and demeanor that I recall clearly.

Boch’ is just a baseball guy that understands the game¸ the business, and the people.  Known for his size and deep voice, he is appreciated as an organization man who is respected by his players.  Honest, up front, fair and decent.  Those would be a few of the terms I would use to describe his style.  And his style makes him successful.

Could you imagine sitting Barry Zito a couple of years ago when it came to the post-season?  And could you imagine using Zito this post-season and getting such great results?  Bruce Bochy was able to make that happen.

And how difficult is it to send a one-time ace, Tim Lincecum, to the bullpen and then call on him to give key innings in the post-season run, along with a single start in the LCS?  Somehow, the big man made it work.

Two different seasons, two World Championships, and two aces that had to take on  roles they might not have been happy with.  And never a ripple of problems.  My guess is that Bochy’s respect for them as competitors led to them respecting him as much or more.  And ultimately, all three were rewarded with two World Series rings.

I had the opportunity to play against Bruce during our high school days in Melbourne, Florida.  We then played together for two seasons at Brevard Community College.  Here a few recollections:

  • As a freshman at BCC, Boch’ found himself playing first base on a regular basis.  Although he was a catcher by trade, he was a baseball player at heart.  I never recall him complaining about playing a secondary position.  I do, however, recall that he played first extremely well.  Great footwork and good hands.  Many’s the time he saved an infielder from a throwing error, whether he was utilizing his great reach or digging a ball out of the dirt.
  • I was speaking with Max Hammond not long before he passed away.  He was a local parent who had organized a summer league for high school players, and also was involved with American Legion baseball.  Mr. Hammond told me of a time when Bruce was having a tough time throwing down to second before the start of the inning when we were playing ball at Brevard Community College.  Someone expressed concern that Bochy’s throws were consistently going high.  Mr. Hammond said “Tell the pitcher to duck.  Bruce doesn’t want to hit his own guy.”  Word got to the pitcher, and Bruce found the mark.  When Bruce became our starting catcher during our sophomore season, it was rare that a base runner would attempt to steal on him.  His arm was both strong and accurate.  By the way, Max Hammond was the father of Darrell Hammond of Saturday Night Live fame.  Darrell was a slugging outfielder with us at Brevard.
  • Once, our catchers were working on throwing behind the runner.  Several of us were stationed at first base, and out only duty was to get far enough off the bag to get picked off.  I decided I would get some work in myself by attempting to dive back to the bag.  A Cardinals’ farm hand, Ernie Rosseau, who would later be my boss at BCC, had told us it was always good to be working on something while we were a part of someone else’s drill.  So there I was, trying to make the catchers’ drill my drill as well.  Well, Bruce threw to first, I dove back, and the ball drilled me in the right side of the face, just below the cheekbone, just above the jaw.  Thankfully, it got all flesh.  For the next week or so, I wore the stitches of a baseball in the form of a bruise on my face, courtesy of Bruce Bochy.  But what I recall is how he apologized to me, over and over.  And I know it wasn’t just because he might have made an errant throw.  It was because he cared about my well-being.
  • We played a double-header one Saturday at the Red Sox complex at Chain-of-Lakes in Winter Haven, Fla.  In the two games against Polk Community College, Boch’ had THREE triples.  While he was not known for his foot-speed, he was known for driving the baseball.  On a minor league back field, the big man had more triples in one day than most of our club had in the whole year.  And although he had traditional catcher’s speed, Bruce was certainly among the best base runners on the club.  He always managed to make the most of the situation, and seldom, if ever, made a base running error.
  • The Houston Astros asked if our team could make the twenty-or-so mile drive to Cocoa to play a select group of their minor leaguers during the spring of 1975.  Again playing on a back field at a spring training complex, Boch’ put on a show.  I recall him driving a ball into the gap for an extra-base hit.  But what impressed me the most was when he back-handed a ball that was low and away from his glove hand and threw out one of the Astros’ top young base runners at second.  In one swift, fluid motion, he fired a strike to second, and the play wasn’t close.  Houston would choose Bruce with the 24th pick in the first round, and his pro ball career would begin.

Last year, I finally got to see Bruce in action.  He texted me on a Friday and asked if I’d like to see the Giants play the Marlins in Miami.  He got me a ticket.  Then he let me sit in the clubhouse before it was time to take to the field.  Then it was into the dugout to see all the pre-game interviews before the  game.  He also had Ernie Rosseau, from the old days at BCC, and his son Randy as guests on the field as well.  Bruce doesn’t forget anyone, and he doesn’t leave anyone out of the action.

The Giants won that night behind the pitching of Lincecum and Brian Wilson.  On the two-and-a-half hour drive home, I listened to a little sports talk radio, and then some rock and roll.  And I understood why Bruce Bochy was so successful.

He had moved up the ladder, but he hadn’t changed a bit.

Have a baseball question you would like a coach’s opinion on? Leave it in the comments or send it via Twitter to @Aerys_MLB or @WayneTyson11.

Our coach is Wayne Tyson, who was a high school and community college baseball coach for 26 years including six years at Florida Air Academy. His FAA team won the Florida Class 3A State Championship in 1998 and was runner-up in 1999, when the team included freshman Prince Fielder. Wayne currently writes for Cowbell Clankers, the Aerys Sports home of the Tampa Bay Rays.

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