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|After leading the Giants to the World Series title in 2010, Bruce Bochy has become a fan favorite.|
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Bruce Bochy has been described as a player's manager. He's a firm, disciplined leader who never criticizes his players in public. Being a former catcher, his greatest attribute is his handling of pitchers -- knowing when to pull a starter or deciding what reliever to bring in from the 'pen depending on the situation. These pitching decisions helped guide the Giants to a World Series title in 2010.
Son Brett Bochy is a right-handed pitcher in the Giants organization, and Bruce had the pleasure of watching him pitch against the Milwaukee Brewers on Sunday. Brett, assigned to Double-A Richmond this season, tossed a 1-2-3 seventh inning and struck out two batters.
"I'm sure I was more nervous than he was," Bruce Bochy said. "It's a moment I'll always remember. Bringing your son into a game, that's a pretty neat thing."
There's a lot to love about spring training. Small, intimate ballparks place you on top of the action. You get to be outside in the sun watching a kid's game, remembering the days when you were young and these men in uniform were your heroes. As I watched the Giants prepare to make another World Series championship run, I wondered whether Buster, Freddy and The Beard would be back at 100 percent. I tried to see which unknown players would surprise everyone by making the squad. And with many positions undecided, how would "Skipper Boch," as many fans like to call him, make the final roster cuts?
At first glance, Bochy, NL Manager of the Year in 1996, appears quite intimidating. But after a few minutes of speaking with him in the dugout at Scottsdale Stadium, his warm personality made me feel right at home. He was an engaging conversationalist. He emphasized that the toughest part about being a manager during spring training is informing a player that he's not going with the club to the City by the Bay.
Bochy has made the transition from Southern California (he played for the San Diego Padres from 1983 to '87 and managed the team from 1995 to 2006) to the Bay Area. He said he loves San Francisco and the ease in which he can navigate the city. On his off days, he sometimes takes advantage of nearby Napa Valley and spends time visiting the different wineries with his wife. On other days, he might just wander the city and enjoy its great restaurants.
We share a mutual respect for the military. Bochy was born in France and was an Army brat, moving from base to base, while I've been on numerous USO tours worldwide, including Iraq and Afghanistan. This year Bochy is using a unique, military-themed approach to fire up his players. Bochy was inspired by the movie "Act of Valor" and his recent completion of the 2007 book "Lone Survivor," which gives an account of the only survivor from a SEAL team operation in Afghanistan. He invited a team of Navy SEALs to camp to show his players the value of hard work, determination, focus and teamwork, and its role in determining success. Bochy said this was received positively by his players, who shared batting practice with the SEALs. During my conversation with Bochy, I realized three very important character traits that he possesses: compassion, authenticity and humility.
(Former cheerleader turned sportscaster and NBA scout, Bonnie-Jill Laflin (@BJLaflin) on Twitter, shares her insights on the world of sports from the field to the owner's box. )