On November 14, 2015, the San Diego Padres announced the hiring of a new bullpen coach to replace Willie Blair. It was also the first coach that Andy Green had a hand in hiring from outside the organization. When the name Doug Bochtler was announced, we couldn’t have been happier. Doug had his best years as a player pitching for the San Diego Padres as the setup man for closer Trevor Hoffman. We decided to reach out to Doug to talk about his playing career and his transition to coaching. We hope you’ll enjoy reading about the baseball career of Doug Bochtler.
Padres360 – Well, we’re thankful you took the opportunity to be able to talk with us. Let’s go over your playing career and your transition into coaching. Tell us about your earliest memory of the game of baseball.
Doug Bochtler – My earliest memory of the game of baseball was I was taking groundballs in school playground. My dad would hit me groundballs — and he was hitting rockets at me and he called them “grass cutters” — and he just told me to get in front of the ball and not let it pass me. That was my first memory of baseball as far as playing. I can remember playing in T-ball and I was the pitcher in T-ball because I was the only guy that knew what a delivery looked like, so I would make a delivery before the guys were allowed to hit.
Padres360 – So who were some of your early influences in the game? Coaches you may have had, players you admired?
Doug Bochtler – Well, I was always a big fan of Nolan Ryan even though I didn’t get a chance to watch him play very often; just because of the reputation he had in the game. I bought everything that I could as far as Nolan Ryan — The Pitcher’s Bible… it has a little flip book of his mechanics. I tried to study those, and then when cable television finally came out, we had two channels it was Atlanta Braves Superstation and the WWOR, which broadcast all the Mets games. It was at that point I became a big fan of Dwight Gooden and things he would do on the field. And I modeled my delivery after Dwight Gooden a little bit. Kind of a hybrid between Nolan Ryan and Dwight Gooden.
Padres360 – You get drafted by Montreal, you go to Colorado in their expansion draft, and then you come to San Diego in a trade that brought Andy Ashby and Brad Ausmus here. Talk about being traded to the Padres organization, what your thoughts were at that time of being traded here.
Doug Bochtler – You know; I knew it was a great opportunity. I knew that somebody really liked me and obviously, you’re a player in baseball, you really need somebody like that who’s got your back and stands behind you. That guy was obviously Randy Smith for me. I just saw it as an opportunity.
Padres360 – Do you remember when you were first called up? Who was the first batter that you faced?
Doug Bochtler – First batter that I faced, let’s see, was a guy by the name of J.R. Phillips. I faced him two weeks earlier in Triple A. And I walked in, a little nervous, but I settled in after that.
Padres360 – A friend of ours, Summer Serrano, talked about some of the antics you guys did in the bullpen. What are some of the things you guys did down there to keep loose during a game?
Doug Bochtler – The antics down at the bullpen, I guess it really depended on who was pitching, the flow of the game. At that point, we were keeping light focus on the game. And it wasn’t nearby as intensive focus on the game as you would normally have. One of the reasons for it is relievers are guys who have the ability to go out and throw 30-45 pitches everyday and have focus for a short attention span everyday. Your starter is the guy that has to be able to focus for 120 pitches in a row. And they had their off-time of their play-time essentially, during the other four days. This is one of the reasons that I respect catchers as much as I do. A catcher, they don’t get to take pitches off. If a guy of that quality — like a first rate reliever — you think of the great defenders that our game has ever known, they don’t get to take time off, pitches off. They don’t. But being a pitcher, it does allow for you to take a little bit off — see a little bit of levity and be a little bit relaxed because when you get out there, ultimately, whether or not you execute a pitch means the difference between the whole ball game. So your focus has to be at a certain level that is unrivaled in the game. And, like I said, starters do it 120 times in a row. If they take a pitch off, it could mean the whole ball game. Relievers have to have that ability to lock in and focus when they’re on the mound. To be able to lock in and focus to that level and maybe even a little bit higher because that game is on the line, depending on the leverage of the situation. And to maintain that kind of focus when you’re not actively in the game is nearly impossible. So you’ve got to have times when you’re paying attention to the game, don’t hear me wrong, you are paying attention to the game, but just not at the level that you would be if you were actually out there performing.
Padres360 – Joe Madden really takes that philosophy with his entire team with wanting to make sure people are loose and that they have that levity. He feels that that actually helps them focus more when the time comes to do their job.
Doug Bochtler – You have to. It’s like anything else. Even air traffic controllers burn-out. You have maintain that kind of focus over such a great period of time, you’ve got to have time to let your mind rest and process it all. Which is one of the reasons why hitters like to step out of the box, because they want to gather their thoughts and refocus their mind as far as what’s going on here? What are they trying to do there? What’s he going to do next? That’s the reason they want to do that. It’s so much more of a mental game than the average fan wants to see and watch. They just want to see the action but there’s so much of a mental grind going on that unless you have an edge and a focus that’s next level, you’re never going to succeed in this game.
Padres360 – Who’s your favorite manager that you’ve played for? And you mentioned catchers. What catcher you ever worked with did you really like the most?
Doug Bochtler – To say that throwing to Brad Ausmus was not my best, would be a slap in the face to one of the greatest defenders behind the plate ever. He was a super smart guy. I never felt like, when he put a finger down, he didn’t have a reason behind it. I knew he was smarter than I was, and made it easy to go with him especially when he may see a batter move up to the plate two inches because we have been pitching him a way all day, and he wants a fastball inside. I’ve been watching from the bullpen, and I noticed that we got this guy out away a couple of times but I’m 300 feet away. I couldn’t tell how close he was to the batter’s box. He was such a valuable person behind the plate and it was a privilege to throw to him.
Doug Bochtler – As far as my managers go, it was interesting being there with Bochy during his rookie season and then to see him in his second season, it was an awesome transition. I was wooed to the big leagues as a player, didn’t really know how things were supposed to work. Bochy was new to managing the big leagues. And when I say that I don’t, I’m not referring to the actions, I’m more referring to managing people. To see him in his first year and to watch him. How do I handle this situation? I’m not real sure. And than in his second year managing, to see how he put a bullpen together, to see how he handled situations in the club house, all of those things. He matured as a manager and everybody knew their role on the team. And because of that, it allowed for gradual increase in the focus intensity. So I knew I was pitching the 8th inning — that was my inning — and when the 6th inning came, I’m already anticipating who I was going to be facing in the 8th inning. And the roles were very clearly defined. So having a manager like that, that’s the kind of flow I think that it really does help the mind prepare for those intense moments that are coming.
Padres360 – You worked with Trevor Hoffman early in his career on his change-up. We remember early on with Trevor, when he came over from Florida, he had some sort of arm injury where he was out for a period of time. Was that around the time that he started working on the change-up and added it to his repertoire?
Doug Bochtler – I believe it was a surfing injury. When he came over from Florida, he was a guy that was throwing — I say 97. So he was a guy that had an extremely good arm. He had a great arm. He was pretty much a power fastball and a straight down curveball kind of guy. When we were playing catch one day, he was my catch partner because a laid-in guy and a closer, we typically threw on the same days. We became catch partners and I can remember one day, he went over to me and he said, “Hey, how do you throw a change-up?” I had a good change-up and I said, “I kind of do it like this.” And he goes, “Oh, okay. Cool” He went over and asked Ron Villone, “Ron, hey, how do you hold a change-up?” And he’s like, “Oh, like this.” Next day we come out for a throw program and I ask Trevor, “Why were you asking about the change-up when you throw your fastball 97 and have a nasty curveball. What are you messing around with a change-up for? You’re a reliever. You don’t need a third pitch.” Trevor said, “I’m not always going to throw 97.” At this point, he’d already known that something’s going on with his arm, he’s a little buggered up. We went on with the throwing program and we got back in where we’re throwing our change-ups. He throws me a change-up and I missed it. Right between my legs! We were at Qualcomm. I looked out there like, “What was that?” And I said, “Can you do that again?” And he said, “Yeah, I think so.” So he throws me another one, I barely get leather on it. And it rolls right behind me and I run and get the ball and said, “Dude, whatever that is, you got to break that out. That is filthy!” And then he started throwing a change-up from then on. And it became obviously one of the best change-ups in major league baseball history. It’s okay to be a little bit jealous that he had a better change up than me. And he was able to execute it in away higher rate than I was. But it was cool to be there for the first one that he ever threw and it became one of the greatest ones ever.”
Padres360 – So at the time back with the Padres, who were some of the teammates that you were really tight with and spent time with?
Doug Bochtler – I did a lot of fishing with Andy Ashby. He’s a great guy and I was really close with him. We fished together pretty much every city we went to. We tried to either fish or golf together. We also trained together. So he was a cool dude, man. He’s going to be in spring training this year, which is nice as well. Then other guys I had befriended were Bryce Florie and Sean Bergman, mostly the bullpen guys that I got to be pretty close with.
In part #2, Doug will talk about the start of his coaching career and his thoughts on new Padres manager, Andy Green.
If you want to check out Doug’s career stats, here is a link to his Baseball Reference page, which we proudly sponsor.