What it was like to cover Bruce Bochy's final season as Giants manager


SAN FRANCISCO -- It's pretty standard for Giants manager Bruce Bochy to get questions about his lineup when he meets with the media in the afternoon. Early this season, Bochy looked up and found a young reporter, just out of high school and new to Oracle Park, asking him why Kevin Pillar was batting seventh that night. He explained why he liked Pillar, still relatively new to the team, in that spot. 

Six hours later, Bochy's postgame session was winding down when the young reporter again grabbed a microphone. The Giants had lost and Bochy was ready to head back to his office, but again he was asked if he would consider moving Pillar up in the lineup.

Gregg Popovich probably would have snapped. Bill Belichick probably would have glared and muttered something about the next opponent. Bochy paused and then broke into a wide smile.

"You said that earlier!" he told the young reporter. "You really like Pillar, don't you?"

I've spent eight years covering Bruce Bochy, and have spent more time with him than just about anyone in my life over the past decade. I can't think of an interaction that better sums up his relationship with the media than that one. 

Bochy will be remembered as a winner, a fierce competitor, one of the best managers this game has ever seen. I'll remember all of that, of course, but I'll also remember him for his kindness, patience and professionalism. He has never lost sight of the fact that interacting with the media is part of the job, and he seemed to embrace that role through good times and bad, deep conversations and bad questions. And man, were there a lot of bad questions this year. 

"The fact that you guys are here listening, I'm savoring that," Bochy said earlier this week, smiling. "I can't get my wife to do that."

The questions will now exclusively come from Kim, but for 13 years here and 12 in San Diego before that, Bochy has done his best to fulfill every request from beat writers, TV reporters -- both local and national -- and hundreds of media members he didn't know. 

It's easy to be generous with your time when you're winning, but what I found most striking was that Bochy never changed over the past three seasons. He would fulfill every request, especially this season. 

Bochy never wanted a farewell tour. He thought announcing his decision would get all the questions about his future out of the way early. Instead, reporters in every visiting city flocked to the dugout to ask the same series of questions. 

"What's your favorite memory of managing in this ballpark?"

"Are you really going to stay retired?"

"What does 2,000 wins mean to you?"

If you know Bochy well, you could see in his body language that it was starting to wear thin at times. But he never snapped or turned anyone down. He answered those same questions so often that phrases like "I made my decision" and "I'm good with it" were stuck in beat writers' heads throughout the summer. 

Bochy sat with that small group of traveling reporters in Atlanta last week and chatted for half an hour in the visiting dugout. Our takeaway was that he really does seem "good with it." He's ready to see what else is out there and spend more time with his growing family, although he has said repeatedly in recent weeks that he'll still be around in some respect.

The Giants expect to have him play a role in the organization. They would expect nothing less from someone who helped make #ForeverGiant a thing. I thought about that commitment to loyalty this week when the San Francisco Chronicle's Henry Schulman helped present Bochy with "The Good Guy Award," a small trophy from local reporters that usually is reserved for a helpful player. 

Schulman joked that he had only seen Bochy snap a few times in 13 years together, and all were because he asked him why he stuck with a struggling Tim Lincecum so long in a given game. That loyalty is what Bochy's players might most remember.

Throughout lean times, whether with late-career Lincecum or 2018 Hunter Pence or this season's version of some core Giants, Bochy has stood behind his players, always insisting publicly that it's going to get better. There's a reason Lincecum, famously private, is expected at the ballpark on Sunday, along with dozens of other former Giants. 

They'll be here to say goodbye to a man who treated everyone, whether they were an All-Star pitcher or a nervous young reporter, with the same patience and respect. Everyone got Bochy's full attention, something I was reminded of earlier this summer. 

[RELATED: Gwynn's Bochy salute shows retiring manager's fatherly side]

A week before the Giants visited Citi Field, I asked Bochy if he had a few minutes to chat for a feature I was writing about no-hitters. We decided to talk in New York, but the night before our scheduled meeting, Bochy won his 1,000th game as a Giant. 

He was toasted by his players in the clubhouse and spent plenty of time after the game reluctantly discussing the achievement. I assumed he had long forgotten that I wanted an interview and was far too busy with the milestone to even think about it, and that was fine. I would just try again after the road trip. 

But as reporters filed out of the visiting clubhouse at Citi Field, Bochy called out.

"Alex," he said. "We're still on for tomorrow, right?"

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