Bochy eager to manage against former players

March 11th, 2023

This story was excerpted from Kennedi Landry’s Rangers Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Bruce Bochy sat in contemplation for a few beats. 

“I think it's just Dave Roberts?” he wondered to himself for a second. “I feel like I’m leaving somebody out, but that’ll go up with [Mark] Kotsay. … and [Phil] Nevin.” 

Bochy was thinking about which of his former players he’s managed against. Roberts, currently the Dodgers' manager, is the only one at the moment, but with Bochy’s return to baseball in the American League West, he’ll share a division with two more of his former players in Kotsay (A’s) and Nevin (Angels). 

“We've been texting now and then,” Bochy said. “It's always good to see those guys that you're good friends with that played for you. I'm happy for them and where they're at and because the fun part of getting back in this is that I could get a chance to spend more time with them and see them even though they are competitors. It's gonna be good to see them.

“We’re close friends, we’re always going to be that. But we’re competitors. That’s how you look at it, it’s what this game is about. When we play against each other, you're doing all you can to win a game just like [they] will be. Maybe afterward you'll have a laugh or two but when a game starts it's all about trying to win the game.” 

Two of Bochy’s other former players have gone on to become big league managers -- David Ross and Brad Ausmus -- but neither has managed against Bochy in a regular-season game.

So for Kotsay and Nevin -- both of whom played for Bochy when he was manager of the Padres in the early 2000s -- it’s an honor to be on the other side of the field and in the same division from a manager of his caliber.

“It'll be fun,” said Nevin, who was also Bochy’s third-base coach in San Francisco in 2017. “We've talked a lot this winter about it. I'm happy he's back. I know he's happy to do it. It's a challenge. It's like last year, one of my first games was against Buck [Showalter]. I know how prepared they are. They don't miss anything. And I learned a heck of a lot from him. And as far as that stuff, the preparation and being ready for any moment in a game and thinking ahead, I know you're not going to catch any of those guys off guard. So it'll be fun. The conversations will be great, maybe some friendly side bets here and there."

Kotsay and Nevin overlapped in San Diego from 2001-03, well before Bochy’s run of three World Series titles in the 2010s with the Giants. But even back then, it was clear he was something special to the players.

The game has changed so much around Bochy in the past 25 years, but he’s constantly adapted to the world around him, and also stayed true to himself and who he is to his players, so much so that players recognize it decades later.

“When I got traded to the Padres in 2001, Boch was the manager,” Kotsay said. “For the next three seasons, I really loved just playing for him. Built a relationship as a player. Moving forward, we were part of a friendship group. A bigger circle. I got to spend some time with him on some trips and the relationship grew into a mentorship when I went through these processes of trying to become a manager prior to landing here in Oakland. One of the interviews was with San Francisco after he was done there, and he guided me and helped me through the interview process. From playing for him as a 25-year-old kid to being 47, I still look to him for advice and mentorship.”

And despite his hiatus from managing, Kotsay isn’t at all surprised that Bochy returned when and where he did.

Bochy said at his introductory press conference back in October that he simply missed the game. He missed the competition and the routine and everything that comes with Major League Baseball.

“I knew it had to be the right opportunity, the right place, a place that valued his tool set,” Kotsay said. “I think his relationship with [general manager Chris Young] led him to be open to going back to Texas. It’ll be fun. We have a couple guys in this division now with Phil Nevin managing the Angels, myself and Boch -- a little inner circle of competition there.”