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Playing Under A Watchful Eye
Courtesy: Sun Devil Athletics
Release: 03/01/2003
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Courtesy: Sun Devil Athletics
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March 1, 2003

By Brian Gomez
TheSunDevils.com

Imagine what it would be like to have one of your parents watching every move 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 of the Sun Devil football program, Joel Bocchi always has someone keeping an eye on him, whether he is making a signal to the pitcher, throwing out a runner at 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, whose father is a regular figure these days at ASU baseball games. "I've never not had 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 the playground with other youngsters. He instead found comfort alongside his father and mother, Eileen Bocchi, within the friendly confines of Packard Stadium.

Little did Joel Bocchi know that by the time he even turned seven, he would have watched future major leaguers Barry Bonds, Oddibe McDowell and Fernando Vina, among others.

"From a young age, he watched a lot of sports," Don Bocchi said. "I used to 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 baseball strengthened. 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 of places he could have gone to school, but there wasn't anything better." After completing a successful four-year career at Phoenix's Desert Vista High School during which he drove in the winning run of the 2001 state championship game, Joel Bocchi had little doubt about where he wanted to play collegiate baseball.

"There were no ifs, ands or buts about it," he said. Although Joel Bocchi cherished the opportunity to don the maroon and gold as 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 at Desert Vista.

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"I've done a pretty good job up to now, but there are some things I can improve on that would make myself that much better,"."The pitcher shouldn't have to worry about (the catchers). He should be totally worried about locking in and making a pitch, not worried about what we're doing."
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But Joel Bocchi had seen enough baseball to realize that not everybody gets off to great starts in new environments. When Joel Bocchi was just three years old, he saw former Sun Devil Dan Rumsey hit .269 as a rookie. Rumsey later earned All-America honors before his time in Tempe was over. Joel Bocchi is far from receiving those kinds of accolades, however, he is having the type of season that would make any player envious. Increased playing time and subtle changes in his approach have paid large dividends for Joel Bocchi, who ranks fourth on the team in batting (.390) and has already marked 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 to everything and getting your mind straight," said Joel Bocchi, who has started 14 of ASU's 22 games this season after further refining his swing in fall workouts. "I've tried to crouch down a little more, which helps the ball stay on 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 with Sun Devil sophomore catcher Tuffy Gosewisch. He has tallied 86 putouts and 11 assists without making an error for a 1.000 fielding percentage. Joel Bocchi also has thrown out 7 of 14 base runners.

"I've done a pretty good job up to now, but there are some things I can improve on that would make myself that much better," Joel Bocchi said. "The pitcher shouldn't have to worry about (the catchers). He should be totally worried about locking in and making a pitch, not worried about what we're doing."

Joel Bocchi made his presence felt last weekend when helping lead the Sun Devils to three more victories that extended their winning streak to 12 games. He came up big Saturday with back-to-back inning-ending outs that thwarted a pair of Notre Dame scoring threats. "Those are big plays, especially to end an inning," Joel Bocchi said. "If you're in a big ball game and those plays come up, they can change the course of the whole game."

Maybe having the old man around isn't such a bad thing after all.

Reach the reporter at brian.gomez@asu.edu.

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