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  • Bruce Bochy is entering his 25th and final season as a major league manager that will likely earn him a trip to the Baseball Hall of Fame. His peers reflect on their relationship with the San Francisco Giants skipper before the 2019 campaign.
By Sam Ficarro
March 20, 2019

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Torey Lovullo likens managing a game against San Francisco Giants skipper Bruce Bochy to spending 15 rounds in the ring with Muhammad Ali.

“He’s going to exploit you any way possible,” the Diamondbacks manager said. “He’s not going to do it by just jabbing you. He’s going to try to punch you, and knock you out. So by the end of the day, you’re exhausted.”

The Giants will be saying goodbye to a baseball heavyweight after this season, and with spring training winding out, nostalgia got the best of several managers.

“Boch really impacted me personally,” Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “We’re very good friends. He’s done a lot of things for the game of baseball, the city of San Francisco, the Giants, and I wish him well.”

The news hit Roberts like an Ali body blow. He played for Bochy from 2005-08 and has managed against him since 2016. Bochy announced on Feb. 18 that he’s retiring as Giants manager at the end of the season, completing a 25-year managerial career that has featured almost 2,000 wins and three World Series titles.

A backup catcher for the San Diego Padres when they lost to the Detroit Tigers in the 1984 World Series, Bochy also managed the Padres to the 1998 National League pennant before they were swept by the Yankees in the World Series.  

Roberts has spent a lot of time with Bochy, going out to dinner, drinking wine and taking trips together, always while sharing stories. “Boch is a sneaky joke-teller, storyteller,” Roberts said. “He’s got a really good humor.”

Roberts has tried to soak in everything possible from Bochy, whom he believes will make his next stop in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

“For me to get tidbits of the conversations and his psyche, the way he keeps his temperament very even-keeled, there’s a lot of things I’ll take with me,” Roberts said

Cubs manager Joe Maddon has known Bochy since the 1980s when Bochy was managing in Class A ball and Maddon was a roving minor league instructor. Maddon respects Bochy for the way he’s handled a pitching staff and for how he defends his players.

“He’s kind of like a man’s man,” Maddon said. “He’s got a little John Wayne in him, and I think his players have always respected how he’s always stuck up for them. The game will be lesser because he’s not managing anymore, but I wish him well. He’s a really good man.”

After Bochy’s announcement, Maddon received a handful of text messages, including one from his son Joey, a photographer. “Joey had a shoot with him and he treated Joey so well,” Maddon said. “He’s been such a fan of Boch from that one moment.”

One trait that many of the managers admired from afar is Bochy’s ability to connect with players. “There’s very few guys that I know that, throughout their managing careers, have been so consistent with that,” Roberts said. “The trust he builds with his players, the clarity and consistent communication.

“And his in-game managing is really good.”

Bochy believes that creating the right culture is the most important component of building a championship team. “I’ve always felt that talent is going to win you games, but great chemistry can win you championships,” Bochy said. “I really feel that’s a big part of our culture in San Francisco and what’s helped with our success.”

In fact, Bochy said if there was one piece of advice he’d give to aspiring managers, it would center around managing people and building that culture.

“You got to have your players in the right frame of mind,” he said. "The culture has to be there––the type of culture you want these players, the characters you have on the club, to get them to come together. For someone who wants to manage, don’t ever forget that because a lot of people think, ‘Well, my most important job is when the game starts.’

“It’s way before that.”

Over the years, Bochy has seen a lot of changes in baseball. From the introduction of analytics to new rules and technology additions like instant replay, he has adapted as the game has evolved.

“The game is all about adjustments,” he said. “Hitters adjust on the fly in every at-bat, and pitchers change during the game. It’s like in everyday life. I don’t care what kind of business you’re in, you have to make those adjustments to adapt to the things you have or to the team you have. That’s what separates the average team from a really good team.”

It’s something that Mariners manager Scott Servais has learned by watching Bochy, and he hopes it helps him to have even half of Bochy’s success.

“Doing it for so long, I think he’s seen the changes in the game, and he’s evolved and rolled with them,” Servais said. “A lot of times, guys get stuck in their ways and can only do it my way. I think he’s made adjustments along the way like you have to, and it’s paid off.”

Bochy said he is looking forward to spending time with family soon, but he will reflect over his final season on the things that make him most proud, like World Series rings won and friendships made.

“I have to start with the championships,” he said. “It’s what you dream about and what you’re trying to achieve.

“Probably more important than that is all the relationships I’ve had the chance to develop with so many great players … not so much players, but people … that’s what I will really miss.”

Sam Ficarro is a senior majoring in sports journalism at Arizona State University. This story is a part of a partnership between Sports Illustrated and Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

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