SAN FRANCISCO – The coach's kid had stubble on his face. He took the baseball from his dad, a decorated World Series champion who put his hand on his boy's shoulder, nodded and left him to his own.
For the first time in history, Saturday night at AT&T Park, a major league manager stood on a major league mound and gave the ball to his son, and returned to the dugout to watch his son pitch.
Brett Bochy is a 27-year-old right-hander. He was drafted by the San Francisco Giants in the 20th round four years ago, out of Kansas. His father, Bruce, played parts of nine big-league seasons, retired, and has won 1,612 games as a manager, 661 – with two World Series titles – for the Giants.
There have been seven manager-player combinations. Bruce and Brett became the first to manage and pitch for the same club, the moment arriving amidst the brutality of a 17-0 win by the Los Angeles Dodgers, but accompanied by cheers from a crowd seeking a softer moment.
Brett entered with the bases loaded and two out in the sixth inning and walked in a run before recording the final out. When he reached the dugout, his father was waiting, patting him on the back as he descended the stairs. Brett pitched the seventh inning and allowed a two-run home run.
For years they'd talked on the phone after Brett pitched in high school, then at Kansas and the minor leagues. Brett would send video of his outings. Bruce, the former catcher, would tell him it was great, that maybe he should try this or that, and encourage him to keep at it. For those years, Brett would watch his dad from the stands or on television. The job of running a ballclub doesn't leave many nights or weekends, but they did what they could, and Brett spent summer evenings at the ballpark in San Diego, when Bruce managed the Padres and Brett began to learn the game.
"He's had a journey," Brett said late Saturday night. "It's great to see the success he's had. I'm glad I got a chance to share some of my success with him."
The family business is baseball, after all. And, still, it would be the longest of shots for their careers to find each other.
Felipe Alou managed his son, Moises, in San Francisco and Montreal. Bob Boone managed Aaron in Cincinnati, Hal McRae had Brian in Kansas City, Cal Ripken managed two sons – Cal and Billy – in Baltimore, Yogi Berra managed Dale in New York and 100 years ago Connie Mack managed Earle in Philadelphia. The fathers had put their son's names on lineup cards, hit them fungoes, and embraced them when it was over. None had waited on a mound and watched their boy gather himself in the bullpen down the left field line. None had watched him draw closer, a man now, worthy of this, so strong and capable, and offered the baseball.
Bruce was surrounded by his infielders. The game was miserably out of hand. The bases were loaded.
"Hey," he said when Brett arrived. "I'm sorry to put you in this situation."
Brett would not complain. He wasn't overly recruited out of high school. He went to Kansas and became a good pitcher and he also blew out his elbow. He spent much of his first year as a professional recovering from Tommy John surgery. On a chilly night in the best ballpark in America, against the Dodgers, in front of fans who'd love him because he was one of their own, and with his father 50 or so strides away, he would, with his first pitch, become a big leaguer.
"It was awesome just to be out there," Brett said. "Especially that he was there for it."
Brett rooms with the rest of the new rookies in a hotel up Second Street, a 10-minute walk from the ballpark. Bruce wanted it that way. And so as Brett dressed in the clubhouse, Bruce sat in his office, his chair pushed back and his feet on his desk. It had been a terrible loss, the most lopsided in the Dodgers-Giants series since the clubs had moved west. A win would have drawn the Giants into a tie for first in the NL West, from six games back only a month ago. And now they'd get Clayton Kershaw, the best in the game, on Sunday.
Bruce, though, could not help thinking about the sixth inning, however. That was his boy out there, the little kid who'd tag along behind Jake Peavy all those years ago in San Diego, who'd made something of all those ballgames Bruce had missed.
"It's just good to have him here, to spend time with him," he said. "I'm grateful we have a spot for him up here and that [general manager] Brian Sabean allowed this to happen.
"You know, he's a great kid. And I'll have that memory for the rest of my life, handing him that ball."
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