It’s been a long time since Bruce Bochy has been back to Spokane.
“The last time was the year I managed here, 1989,” he said Thursday at Avista Stadium. “It’s good to be back.”
The delay has nothing to do with the city. Bochy’s been pretty busy in the subsequent 33 years.
The three-time World Series champion manager of the San Francisco Giants and San Diego Padres was in town last week as part of his special adviser duties with the Giants organization. He was here to observe the Giants’ prospects with the Eugene Emeralds, who were in town for a six-game series against the Spokane Indians.
“A lot of great memories here,” Bochy said. “A lot of fun times. That was my plan, to watch our Eugene club play (in Spokane) so I could kind of go down memory lane.”
Bochy said he drove around the city a little bit and though a lot has changed in Spokane since 1989, one thing has not.
“The one thing I do remember very well is this ballpark,” he said. “You know, it’s a great ballpark. It hasn’t changed much – which I like. You got the caboose out there in right field, but it’s a ballpark that brings back great memories for me. We got a ring from that season, and I still have that ring.”
Bochy led the Indians to a 41-34 record in 1989 and won the Northwest League championship for the third year in a row.
Though he spent just one season in Spokane, a lot of memories stood out for Bochy.
“I’ll start with the late Kevin Towers, rest his soul. We were teammates. He was my pitching coach that year and eventually became my boss, my general manager (with the Padres). It was a summer that we just had a lot of fun together.
“It was the first year we both got on the coaching side and so just really had a lot of laughs on the bus rides and on the field. But also, your first year managing is similar to being a first-year player. It was a tremendous learning experience.”
Bochy singled out a couple of players from that team that stood out in his memories.
“Of course, you have Dave Staton, what a year he had. He was a one-man wrecking crew. We had a good team all around. We had a pitcher, Rick Davis, that had a big year for us and ended up being on the mound when we won the championship in Medford.”
Staton had 17 homers with 72 RBIs for the Indians that season in 70 games while Davis went 9-2 with a 1.35 ERA in 15 games.
Bochy was very grateful for the support he got in Spokane, from the fans to the front office.
“They took very good care of us,” he said. “Bobby Brett – he was great to work for. He really made it comfortable for the players and Tom Leip, God rest his soul, we lost him too young too. But we really had a good group here, a lot of fun.
“There’s a lot of history here and it goes back to AAA, goes back to the Dodgers, goes back to Tommy Lasorda, you know? So when you’re on this field, hopefully you feel that as players. This field has had a lot of tremendous players on it.”
Bochy, 67, wonders how much the modern player appreciates that kind of history within the game.
“Sometimes I ask that question, But, you know, you’d be surprised how many do know the history of some of these ballparks or even the game in general.
“But still, some of (the players) hadn’t heard of a lot of guys that have played here like (Steve) Garvey. Hopefully they know Tommy (Lasorda). But that’s part of our job – to remind them and talk about what a privilege and honor it is to play on this field because it has been shared with Hall of Famers.”
Though he’s retired from MLB, Bochy is still involved in the game in a couple of different ways. His duties with the Giants involve attending spring training and traveling a couple of times a year to the affiliates to provide a sounding board to the coaches and players at each of the stops.
“More than anything, I’m just observing, talking to the coaches,” he said. “I’m around if the players want to talk, and I like to get to know them. I look at their progress, hopefully help with the evaluation process.
“I just make myself available. But I’m selfish – I love watching these guys play. I love watching the game and sitting up there (in the stands). You know, it gives me a deeper appreciation of the scouts and what they do. But also, watching the players just make improvements and grow as players and people.”
Bochy finds working with the minor leaguers reinvigorating.
“You tell them stories, you know, about the World Series or whatever, and hopefully they get a little bit of inside info on how it all went down. But yeah, just things like that. It’s been fun to connect with some of them.”
Bochy is very much looking forward to his other baseball endeavor ahead of him – managing Team France in the World Baseball Classic qualifier in September.
Before the pandemic hit, Bochy was in Arizona helping Team France get ready for the WBC. Two years later, he’s back for another shot at it.
Bochy is one of just seven MLB players to be born in France (Bussac-Forêt, Charente-Maritime), where his father, Sgt. Major Gus Bochy, was stationed in the U.S. Army at the time.
“I’m not French, but still, when you’re born there, you feel like you have a connection.”
He said unlike two years ago, the France roster is still very much in the air.
“I agreed to help out a couple years ago and it got canceled,” he said. “We felt like, gosh, we had them ready.
“Some of the players that we had available last time are actually in the big leagues,” he said. “And so, it’s gonna be a challenge. But probably as important as anything is if I can help promote baseball in any way in France, and you know, and get them to have an understanding and a passion for it, then I’ve done my job.”
Other than his baseball responsibilities, Bochy spends most of his time with family.
“I got three grandkids now,” he said. “I got a 41/2-year-old that keeps me busy. He comes over to my house and says ‘Papa, we fishing or golfing today?’ He does not let me sit too long.”
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