Playing Under A Watchful Eye
March 1, 2003
By Brian Gomez
Imagine what it would be like to have one of your parents watching everymove you make at work.
Welcome to the life of Arizona State sophomore catcher Joel Bocchi.As the son of Don Bocchi, the associate athletic director in charge ofthe Sun Devil football program, Joel Bocchi always has someone keeping an eyeon him, whether he is making a signal to the pitcher, throwing out a runnerat second base or taking his cuts at the plate.
'Sometimes I tell guys, 'Imagine your dad being around here all the time.What would you be like?' You'd be a little guarded,' said Joel Bocchi, whosefather is a regular figure these days at ASU baseball games. 'I've never nothad him here. Sometimes it's challenging, but it makes it that much better.'When Joel Bocchi was a child, he didn't spend all his time on theplayground with other youngsters. He instead found comfort alongside hisfather and mother, Eileen Bocchi, within the friendly confines of PackardStadium.
Little did Joel Bocchi know that by the time he even turned seven, hewould have watched future major leaguers Barry Bonds, Oddibe McDowell andFernando Vina, among others.
'From a young age, he watched a lot of sports,' Don Bocchi said. 'I usedto come home and sometimes he would be watching Australian Rules football.Whatever he could see, he would sit there and watch it.'With each passing year, Joel Bocchi's love for the game of baseballstrengthened. So too did his affliction for the Sun Devils.'He has been coming to this baseball field since he was three years old,'Don Bocchi said. 'He didn't have to come to school here. There were a lot ofplaces he could have gone to school, but there wasn't anything better.'After completing a successful four-year career at Phoenix's Desert VistaHigh School during which he drove in the winning run of the 2001 statechampionship game, Joel Bocchi had little doubt about where he wanted to playcollegiate baseball.
'There were no ifs, ands or buts about it,' he said.Although Joel Bocchi cherished the opportunity to don the maroon and goldas a freshman, not everything was rosy. He finished the season hitting .214,a steep drop from the .510 clip he recorded during his senior season atDesert Vista.
'I've done a pretty good job up to now, but there are some things I canimprove on that would make myself that much better,'.'Thepitcher shouldn't have to worry about (the catchers). He should be totallyworried about locking in and making a pitch, not worried about what we'redoing.'
But Joel Bocchi had seen enough baseball to realize that not everybodygets off to great starts in new environments. When Joel Bocchi was just threeyears old, he saw former Sun Devil Dan Rumsey hit .269 as a rookie. Rumseylater earned All-America honors before his time in Tempe was over.Joel Bocchi is far from receiving those kinds of accolades, however, heis having the type of season that would make any player envious. Increasedplaying time and subtle changes in his approach have paid large dividends forJoel Bocchi, who ranks fourth on the team in batting (.390) and has alreadymarked more hits (16) and more RBIs (15) than he did in 17 games last year.'The freshman year is always a tough year, just getting used toeverything and getting your mind straight,' said Joel Bocchi, who has started14 of ASU's 22 games this season after further refining his swing in fallworkouts. 'I've tried to crouch down a little more, which helps the ball stayon a level plane. If you can't see the ball, you can't play this game.'Joel Bocchi has thrived behind the plate, even while sharing time withSun Devil sophomore catcher Tuffy Gosewisch. He has tallied 86 putouts and 11assists without making an error for a 1.000 fielding percentage. Joel Bocchialso has thrown out 7 of 14 base runners.
'I've done a pretty good job up to now, but there are some things I canimprove on that would make myself that much better,' Joel Bocchi said. 'Thepitcher shouldn't have to worry about (the catchers). He should be totallyworried about locking in and making a pitch, not worried about what we'redoing.'
Joel Bocchi made his presence felt last weekend when helping lead the SunDevils to three more victories that extended their winning streak to 12games. He came up big Saturday with back-to-back inning-ending outs thatthwarted a pair of Notre Dame scoring threats.'Those are big plays, especially to end an inning,' Joel Bocchi said. 'Ifyou're in a big ball game and those plays come up, they can change the courseof the whole game.'
Maybe having the old man around isn't such a bad thing after all.
Reach thereporter at email@example.com.
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