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Authors: Bruce Bochy

A Book of Walks

BOOK: A Book of Walks
12.84Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Copyright © 2015 Bruce Bochy. All rights reserved.

ISBN 978-0-9861898-3-8

Book design: Justin Carder and Alvaro Villanueva of Bookish Design

The Publisher wishes to thank Pete Danko, David Jordan, Ron Tiongco, Jeff Kettmann, Nick Petrulakis, Karen Sweeney, Jim Moorehead, Kim and Bruce Bochy, and Bookish Design for their invaluable contributions to this project.

For my wife Kim


Publisher's Note:
A Walk Will Do You Good

Taking My Dog for a Walk

Back to the Pfister in Milwaukee After a Tough Road Loss

My Wife and I, Walking Up the Steps to Coit Tower

Climbing Camelback to Look Down on the Arizona Desert

Walking From Ohio to Kentucky and Back, Over a Historic Suspension Bridge

In New York My Wife and I Spend Hours in Central Park

On My Way to the Ivy-Covered Walls: Walking Chicago's Lakefront Trail

My Everest: To the Golden Gate Bridge



For millions of San Francisco Giants fans, it feels like Bruce Bochy is a member of the family. We're so used to seeing his face in the dugout, staring out at the field with a calm, unbothered look almost no matter what happens. He stares out at the action “with all the fuss and fury of a guy watching ribs slow-cook on the grill,” as I put it in the April 2013 issue of
San Francisco Magazine
. This preternatural unflappability of Bochy's is essential both to his persona and to his development into probably the best field manager in baseball, a lock to end up in the Baseball Hall of Fame one day.

“He never looks like a guy who is beaten up by the job,” ESPN anchor and reporter T.J. Quinn commented. “Even Joe Torre sometimes looked like he just came out of an alleyway beating. You could see the scars. With Bochy, you never do.”

As fans watching at home we know he can't be as calm as he appears to be. We know that somewhere deep down he's as jumpy as we are when a Giants reliever loads the bases and goes 3–0 on a hitter with the game on the line. Yet time and again, Bochy has demonstrated that the higher the tension level ratchets up, the calmer he comes off, not just to us watching at home but to his players as well. They credit his even keel as a key factor in the Giants' unlikely run of winning the World Series in 2010, 2012 and 2014. His deep well of calm — “Zen-like equipoise” I dubbed it in that article — represents the ultimate vote of confidence in his players and encourages them, in turn, to take a longer view and avoid overreaction to short-term setbacks.

“One could make the case that he, not Phil Jackson, is the real Zen Master,” Chris Ballard wrote in the December 18, 2014, issue of
Sports Illustrated

It turns out there are lessons to be learned from Bochy. We can't be him. Very few of us wear World Series rings or serve as a confidante to Buster Posey or Hunter Pence. But we can be a little more like him. We can learn from his example.
The Bochy Way is no great mystery. His approach is right there to be seen and emulated — or not:

Be yourself

Don't overthink

Trust your people and trust your gut

Lose yourself in a long walk

The last of these four points might be the key to the whole bunch. Yes, just being yourself is to a certain extent an art form one naturally embraces and pursues or not; it has to come from within, a calm and steady sense of who you are, so you don't constantly feel pulled this way and that. But in fact, we all need a little help sometimes in regaining our bearings. We all fall into the trap of reacting to events, caught up in this or that disappointment or setback, out of balance because we're not quite in the moment. Bochy's long walks help him catch up. They help him stand foursquare in the here and now. They help him jettison the mental clutter that builds up. They help him shoo away the remnants of any distractions so he can take life — and the ups and downs of a baseball game — as it comes, on its own terms.

“It's my time to kind of clear the head out,” he says. “It's just a world of difference, it helps the mental side out so much, I'm convinced of it. I just think better after a walk.”

Going for long walks carries over to the next two points as well. Bochy as manager understands a basic truth of life that we all know, but sometimes forget:
Most of our important thinking comes ahead of time
. Bochy thinks every game through beforehand. Often he sequesters himself alone in his manager's office pregame for ten or twenty minutes and ponders the role he sees every player of his having that game. He'll mull emergency scenarios. He'll dream up enough surprise twists and turns in the plot line to fuel an Elmore Leonard novel. He'll study the stats, the matchups, and everything else he can to gain an analytic edge. Then he'll head out to the dugout and clear his thoughts and let the game steer his thinking. That is how he's ready to trust his gut: He
knows what he knows.

“I watch the game,” he told me. “You don't see me writing down a lot of things or having to look down at stats. They're important, but there are some things that you can't see on a spreadsheet. How a player is performing at that time, the confidence he's playing with. Or take it the other way: He's really going through a difficult time, and he's not comfortable at the plate or on the mound, or he's not quite there with his delivery. All these things, they play a part in any move that you make, and that's why you have to trust your gut, your instincts.”

Bochy was taking long walks long before he moved to San Francisco to manage the Giants starting in 2007. The ritual of regular long walks got going in his San Diego years with his black lab Jessie, but the City by the Bay, ideal walking city that it is, with its sweeping vistas, its colorful people-watching, its rich mix of neighborhoods and landmarks, turned his walking into a fixture in his life. Often his wife, Kim, leads the way. “I'm a huge walker and San Francisco is the perfect city to walk in,” she says. “So we're in the perfect spot for it. I walk everywhere. I have a car but it sits in the garage. Sometimes it sits there until we have to go to the airport to pick someone up. Our son Greg, a firefighter, lives three miles away near Russian Hill and we walk over to see him.” Their other son, Brett, is a pitcher in the Giants organization.

Another frequent walking companion is Brian Sabean, general manager of the Giants, architect of the three World Series championships in five seasons. But he's also happy to go solo. He'll go for brisk walks that are often like a run, planned in advance, or he'll dial it down a notch and walk wherever his feet tell him to go, whether that's a park or a corner pub, just so long as he's covering enough ground to feel like he went somewhere. Walking is a little adventure. It's a step through the Looking Glass into an alternate reality, knowing that when you come back you'll be the better for it. People in high-stress jobs like managing a big-league ball club are especially in need of the health benefits of regular
long walks or other extended exercise — but everyone could benefit mightily as well from emulating Bochy and getting their steps in outdoors.

“That daily walking may improve mental well-being makes a certain amount of sense given that our brains and psyches are known to thrive on exercise,” Bret Stetka wrote in a February 17, 2015,
Scientific American
article reporting on research demonstrating the physiological and psychic benefits of regular walks. “Regular physical activity has been linked with improved mood, enhanced creativity and a lower risk of depression. It can also improve symptoms in people with depression or anxiety. The rush of blood and oxygen to the brain that comes with working out also helps stave off cognitive decline, in part by inducing the growth of new neurons in the hippocampus, a brain region involved in memory and learning. In fact, exercise is one of the most effective means of preventing or delaying the onset of Alzheimer's disease.”

Bochy's idea that good, long walks not only make him healthier, they make him smarter, has some interesting resonances. A host of scientific research supports the view, showing that regular walking can lead to more alertness, better problem-solving ability and improved mood. Research arrives every few months, it seems, offering additional proof of this basic truth, but it's hardly new. Friedrich Nietzsche and Henry David Thoreau, two giants of 19
century thought, were not only both ardent advocates of hours-long vigorous walks every day, both believed that walking improved their thinking. As Nietzsche put it: “Sit as little as possible; do not believe any idea that was not born in the open air and of free movement — in which the muscles do not also revel.”

Basic health depends on being active — but that doesn't have to mean knocking yourself out with high-intensity workouts. In fact, a 2014 study by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Life Science Division, found that walking briskly was as effective as running in lowering your chances of having high blood pressure, high cholesterol or diabetes.
“The findings don't surprise me at all,” Russell Pate, Ph.D., a professor of exercise science in the Arnold School of Public Health at the University of South Carolina in Columbia, told the American Heart Association. “The findings are consistent with the American Heart Association's recommendations for physical activity in adults that we need thirty minutes of physical activity per day, at least 150 minutes of moderate activity per week or seventy-five minutes of vigorous activity per week to derive benefits.”

Bochy found out for himself early in 2015 what a difference regular walking could make for his basic health. During his yearly physical examination at Giants spring-training camp in Scottsdale, Arizona, in February, irregularities with his heartbeat were detected. Team physician Robert Murray and trainer Dave Groeschner encouraged him to head over to the Scottsdale Healthcare Osborn Medical Center the following day — and, as he joked later, the next thing he knew, he's having two stents placed near his heart to improve blood flow. Within days Bochy was back on the field managing the Giants, feeling better than he had in many months. He told the doctors about his penchant for regular long walks. They said without them he might not still be alive.

“There were two blockages, a little over 90 percent on two blockages,” Bochy told me. “Once they put the two stents in, I felt so much better. I felt like I could walk up Camelback Mountain in Scottsdale.”

One purpose of this book is to help people get to know Bruce Bochy a little better; he's become a beloved figure in the Bay Area and with good reason. But mostly Bochy is a vehicle: He's doing this book because he believes it's important for people to stay active, not just to get in their exercise but to have fun with it and to make the most of that exercise as an outlet that helps clear the mind and leads to a more balanced, relaxed approach to life. Of course that's not always easy to maintain! But it's worth taking the steps — you knew that one was coming — to give yourself a shot at feeling better and living better.

Bochy is donating the proceeds of this book to sponsor programs for young people at the Wellstone Center in the Redwoods near Santa Cruz, California, publishers of the book: specifically, our “Find Your Voice” weekend workshop for aspiring writers eighteen to twenty-one, and a weeklong Bruce Bochy Fellowship for young people looking to make a career out of writing about sports. For details on either, please visit the Wellstone Center in the Redwoods website at
or write
[email protected]

BOOK: A Book of Walks
12.84Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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