Ever get sick of trying to explain what you are doing to friends you haven’t seen in a long long time? I guess it is less of a problem now with social media and everything. But more than once in my life I have been in a situation where an awkward conversation starts with someone I haven’t seen in a decade.
The question “What are you up to?” is brought up and I would feel the need to crawl into the fetal position.
Former Mariners All Star Bruce Bochte evidently feels that way about Seattle and their fans. At least for a while he would decline the chance to join reunions because he was tired of being asked the question “What are you up to?”
Now let me get one thing out of the way. His name is pronounced “BOCK-TEE.” It sure looked to me like there was a Bruce Bochy and a Bruce Bochte playing at the same time with the same pronunciation, but they were different.
The graduate of Santa Clare University was picked 34th over all in the 1972 draft by the Angels. The left handed hitting first baseman shot through the Angels system and made it to the big leagues in 1974.
He was a solid hitter with California, hitting for a .285 average and a .738 OPS in 1975. He didn’t have much power nor speed but held his own with the bat.
In 1977, he was traded to Cleveland and batted .304 in 112 games. At the end of the season, he tried out the brand new free agency route and found himself joining the Seattle Mariners in their second year of existence.
In 1978, Bochte hit a career high 11 homers and remained a solid contact hitter. Then in 1979, as this Kellogg’s 3-D card would denote, he took it to the next level.
He homered and drove in 2 runs on opening day 1979 against his former team, the Angels. Later that week he homered again against Oakland (a team he would eventually play for.)
Bochte had a .941 OPS in April, but nobody knew that then. He did bat .342 for the month, which raised some eyebrows.
He kept his production up in May, batting .352 with 3 more homers and a .973 OPS. By comparison, June was mild, slashing .330/.370/.477. He had 9 homers by the end of June, just 2 behind his career high. On July 13th, he matched his career high with his 11th homer in a 16-1 win against the 2 time defending World Champion Yankees.
At the All Star Game in the Seattle Kingdome, Bochte was the Mariners’ representative. He got a warm hand and in the game drove in a run against defending Cy Young Award winner Gaylord Perry.
He would finish the season batting .316 with 16 homers and an eye popping 100 RBI. He became a fan favorite for a Seattle fan base that didn’t have much else to cheer for.
He remained consistent for double digit homers and a decent average before injuries erased his 1983 season. He would find his way to Oakland and managed one more good season in 1985 before ending his career after the 1986 season.
After he left baseball, he focused on bigger topics, like the universe.
An environmentally conscious person while a player, he donated his time and effort to ecological causes and read about astronomy and nature.
In his post baseball life, he began to understand man’s relationship to the cosmos and frankly shares many of my own thoughts on the origin of life and purpose.
He has worked with the Bay Institute of San Francisco to help preserve Northern California baylands. He has also contributed to the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco and has stressed the concept of healthy living, physically and spiritually.
He is careful to not be labeled as a flake or some kind of hippie. Bochte is interested in the science of the natural world. His wife is the director of the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito. (Wasn’t that from Star Trek 4?)
But according to this Seattle Post Intelligencer article written by Jim Moore, he has kept an arm’s distance from baseball. He turned down the chance to join the Mariners in a All Star Game reunion in 2001. One reason? He didn’t want to keep explaining what he was up to.
Baseball is a chapter in his life. For some, reaching the level of Major League All Star would be an achievement that would mean the world to them.
Perhaps it does for Bochte. But he is thinking about something a little bigger than just the world now.