Bond's future? He hopes it's with Giants
Non-roster invitee brings interesting background to roster quest
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Brock Bond seemed preordained to reach the Major Leagues.
He was born on Sept. 11, 1985, the date Pete Rose broke the all-time hits record. Consequently, Bond said that he patterns his intense playing style after Rose's maximum-effort approach.
Bond grew up in St. Louis, one of the few remaining American cities where baseball is still a magnificent obsession. Moreover, Bond's father was a carpenter who installed seating at the previous version of Busch Stadium, which gave him extra access to the ballpark. So while other kids scampered around playgrounds, Bond roamed the stadium's AstroTurf, conjuring his baseball dreams.
Bond played Little League with Scott Van Slyke, the son of center fielder Andy Van Slyke, who starred for St. Louis and Pittsburgh. One day, Andy Van Slyke mentioned to Bond that he possessed a Major League-quality right-handed swing. That kind of stuff tends to stick with a person into adulthood.
As Bond observed, "When things aren't going well, you can always remember, 'Well, Andy Van Slyke said ...' "
Bond has all but legitimized Van Slyke's scouting report. The switch-hitter has batted .313 in six Minor League seasons, including .332 last year at Triple-A Fresno. He has seized his opportunities in Cactus League action, hitting .500 (6-for-12) with a team-high 1.083 slugging percentage in seven games.
"I had a good feeling after the season and brought it into this year so far," Bond said.
Some may believe that time is running out for Bond, a non-roster invitee who's in his first Major League camp at age 27. But should the Giants need infield help -- he primarily plays second base and has experience at third -- his skill and attitude could force the Giants to promote him, if he doesn't win a spot on the Opening Day roster.
"He has earned his way to at least get a look," said Steve Decker, the Giants' roving Minor League hitting instructor.
Everybody appreciates an underdog who overcomes adversity. That's the path Bond has followed the last couple of years.
Bond missed most of the 2011 season with a concussion that he sustained in early May. Stationed at shortstop during pregame batting practice at Colorado Springs, Bond ranged up the middle for a grounder just as Edgar Gonzalez hit a line drive. The ball struck Bond in the back of his head and caromed to first base.
Last year proved that he had shaken the concussion's ill effects.
"I really focused the whole year on figuring out what kind of player I was," Bond said.
He's the type of performer who, from Decker's description, would suit any lineup -- a contact hitter (266 strikeouts in 1,800 Minor League at-bats) willing to work deep counts.
"Most guys freak out if you ask them to take a strike. He doesn't even blink an eye," said Decker, who managed Bond at five of his nine Minor League stops. "He'll take two strikes, foul off eight pitches and end up working a walk."
Bond has built a lifetime .410 on-base percentage employing that strategy.
"A lot of guys get to two strikes and they don't want to strike out," Bond said. "I just try to keep that out of my head, see the ball and trust my hands."
Defense is said to be Bond's shortcoming. But manager Bruce Bochy is maintaining an open mind on that issue.
"He's not known for his defense, I think it's fair to say," Bochy said. "But he has played some good defense here, and that's important."
Decker noted that Bond's diligence has continued to sustain him.
"The one word that always comes up with Brock is 'gamer,' " Decker said. "He's not a guy who wows the scouts by running 4.1 down the [first-base] line or with extra power or a plus arm. He's just a guy who basically does everything in his will to beat the other team. Those are the guys you root for."
Decker told a story about a Minor League exhibition in which Bond upended two opposing infielders while breaking up a double play. The infielders converged at second base, leaving themselves vulnerable to Bond's hard slide.
"I just try to play like it's my last game, every time," Bond said. Referring to his concussion, he added, "It made me stronger and it made me realize how lucky I am to play baseball. ... I realize that this game can be taken away from me really quickly, so I'm just going to have fun."
Bond gained a measure of notoriety when the Giants selected him in the 24th round of the 2007 First-Year Player Draft. It was revealed that they meant to draft outfielder Casey Bond, who they took in the following round when he remained available.
If this was another circumstance conspiring against Bond, like his concussion, it didn't matter.
"I try not to think about it," Bond said. "I'm here, and now they opened the door for me. I'm thankful for that."
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.