If Bruce Bochy someday reaches Cooperstown because of his success as a manager, he will look back happily on every stop in his baseball life. That includes a short but worthwhile time in Queens.
The Giants manager, who is trying to win a fourth consecutive even-numbered year championship, spent the 1982 season as a catcher for the Mets. Like everything else in his career, it helped make him the person and the manager he is — one who most recently kept the Giants going during a rocky second half and brought them to the wild-card game Wednesday night against one of his former clubs.
“Oh, I had a great time here,” he said at Citi Field on Tuesday before his team held a workout. “I was up here about seven weeks. Got called up from Tidewater and enjoyed my time living on Long Island. I got to enjoy the city. I got to know the city a little bit. I had some great teammates here. You learn how passionate the fans are with baseball. I had a great time.”
Bochy made his major-league debut in New York, playing for the Astros (who had made him a 1975 first-round draft pick) at Shea Stadium on July 19, 1978. He went 2-for-3 against Craig Swan and caught Mark Lemongello in his team’s 2-1 loss. Among others in the Houston lineup that day were future Yankees general manager Bob Watson and future Mets manager Art Howe.
His playing career did not have an upward trajectory, though. Bochy was a career .239 hitter. The Astros sent him to the Mets for minor-leaguers Stan Hough and Randy Rogers on Feb. 11, 1981. He spent two years in the Mets system and had his best statistics in the short time they had him on the major-league roster: a .306 batting average and .869 on base-plus-slugging percentage.
Nonetheless, the Mets released him on Jan. 21, 1983, and he finished with five years on the Padres. All the while, he was learning. The lessons have paid off in World Series triumphs in 2010, 2012 and 2014 and have taught him to appreciate every moment, especially the frantic chases to get a wild-card spot.
“I like this wild-card thing. It’s created a lot of interest in the game and certainly it’s helped us a couple times now,” he said. “It’s done a lot for baseball. It did a lot for our city. This past week, every game was like a playoff game. I’m sure it was the same here in New York and St. Louis. I mean, it just created so much interest in this game and it has been good for baseball.”