SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. - At 10:25 a.m. Monday morning, Giants manager Bruce Bochy walked up the steps of the home dugout at Scottsdale Stadium and looked out at his 2019 team. He nodded at a team employee who was standing in a hallway, avoiding the rain and 45-degree weather.
"That was hard," Bochy said softly, his eyes welling up as he stepped onto the field.
In his 13th season-opening speech to Giants players and support staff, Bochy announced that this one would be his last. He began the first meeting of the season by informing his players, some of whom view him as a father figure and some who walked into the room just this week, that he will be retiring at the end of the 2019 season.
This is a decision that did not come lightly, or quickly, for the 63-year-old. There was speculation at the end of last season, and Bochy had a pretty good idea then that he would be hanging up the cleats and legendary cap. He spoke to his family, plus longtime bosses and friends Larry Baer and Brian Sabean. When the Giants overhauled their front office, it was made clear to new president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi that Bochy likely would only be around for Zaidi's first year on the job.
Bochy hoped his future would not become an issue, but he was asked at the Winter Meetings and again at FanFest. It became clear to him that the questions would not go away, so he announced his decision before the first full-squad workout of the spring. Bochy managed to keep this secret for months, and he held on tight the last few days, eager to let his players know before anyone else found out. As he sat in the dugout Monday, he said he's at peace with the decision.
"In my mind, it's time," he said. "I've managed with my gut and came up here in 2007 on my gut. It's a gut feeling that it's time. It's been an unbelievable ride and there's so much that I can be grateful for."
The Giants will spend much of this season showing Bochy how grateful everyone around him is. Bochy said he is not looking for a retirement tour and hopes he isn't showered with gifts at every NL stop - he will be - and he tried over and over again to bring the focus back to winning on the field. That was the emphasis of the majority of the morning meeting, which quickly shifted from the announcement to preparation for the season.
As players sat there shocked, they centered on one concept.
"We've got to do our part," left-hander Derek Holland said. "Let's send him out on a high note."
Bochy already has reached the highest highs. He's a three-time World Series champion, and took the Padres to the Fall Classic during one of his 12 seasons in San Diego. He's the only manager with three titles who isn't yet in the Hall of Fame, but he's a lock for enshrinement. Bochy is 11th on the all-time wins list, and should hit 2,000 this season. With 83 wins from the Giants, he'll move into 10th place. With 90, he'll even his career record at 2,016-2,016.
That last goal is far-fetched given the last two seasons, but Bochy struck an optimistic tone after making the announcement. He has come into camp with renewed energy, the result of offseason hip surgery. He has a good working relationship with Zaidi and said that hire had absolutely nothing to do with this decision. Bochy praised the moves Zaidi made in recent days.
"I love this group and the new additions," he said. "It's going to be up to us, though, to get that mojo back and bring that winning spirit back here to San Francisco."
It's a grueling season, and it won't be long before much of this enthusiasm wears off. But for now, the Giants are hopeful they can get Bochy back to the stage where he locked up his spot in Cooperstown. He's fourth all-time in postseason wins, and one of just five managers in history to have won three titles in a span of five years.
"There's a sense of calm and confidence about him in life with just how he conducts himself. I don't ever remember him being in any kind of panic mode or anything," Sabean said of Bochy's postseason success. "And also, look at some of the managers during that run that he was beating, the teams that he beat. There are a lot of impressive folks."
Most of those men have moved on to life after baseball, and Bochy will this fall, whether in September or October. He said he's looking forward to spending more time with his wife Kim, his two sons, and two young grandchildren. He joked about coaching Little League, and he said at some point he'll have to figure out what to really do with his time. When the topic of managing again came up, he paused. He couldn't commit to never giving it another shot.
"Never is a big word," he said slowly.
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Bochy knows this will be hard, and he knows that at some point in future years he'll want to once again take that familiar spot on the top step of the dugout. He'll cross that bridge when it comes. For now, his secret is out in the open, and he's happy about that, even if Monday was one of the most difficult days of his career.
"I've had a great run," he said. "But it's time to do something different."