BROCK SOLID

ASU'S BASEBALL WIZARD LOVES TO PLAY HARDBALL. THIS YEAR, HE'S HAD TO.

There has to be a certain amount of pride that goes into what you do. Someday, you'll all be as old as I am now, and I don't want you to look back and think you didn't make the most out of this. This all goes by very, very fast. Make the goddamned most of it.

--ASU baseball coach Jim Brock to his team

Arizona State's baseball players crowd around the Devils' coach in their dugout at Packard Stadium. James Brown is in full flight over the public-address system--When I hold you in my arms, I know that I can do wrong."

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Jim Brock turns away, closes his eyes and slowly rubs his temples. "Cindy," he roars at team equipment manager Cindy Fulton, "find someone to turn off that damned music! Now!"

She sprints to a phone and dials the press box. Someone cuts off the Godfather of Soul in midwail. Brock tears into his squad.

"Horseshit effort, men," he says, spitting out the words. "This was not a good ball club we played, and we damn sure made them look much better. This is total bullshit. Absolutely piss-poor. If you can't play hard for 27 outs, then you shouldn't be out here. Get out of my sight, dammit. Now!"
Final score: ASU 4, University of Arizona 2.
The players mingle with their parents, friends and autograph-seekers outside the team's lounge. Star center fielder Jacob Cruz is holding court with a small group of admirers.

"Rake," as his teammates have dubbed him, has been at ASU for three years, and is rated very highly by pro scouts. Someone asks him how Brock's postgame invective rated on the Richter scale.

"That was subpar for Coach," Cruz says, without missing a beat. "You should have seen him my freshman year."
A thoughtful 21-year-old, Cruz pauses to consider something.
"Getting on us takes a lot of energy," he says, smiling widely. "He's got to be feeling better to go off on us like that. It felt good."
@rule:
@body:The vast majority of my experience with him on the field has been negative, because that's the way it is. But it's my perception that he's become more human because of his situation.

--Umpire Kevin Daugherty

Jim Brock's place in the pantheon of all-time-great college baseball coaches is secure.

He has won almost 1,100 games in 23 years at ASU, and has taken teams on three levels--American Legion, junior college and major college--to five national championships.

During his tenure, the school has seen five basketball coaches and six football coaches come and go. One reason is that no major sport at ASU has won as consistently as its baseball team--71 percent of the time in Brock's reign.

ASU is a steppingstone to professional baseball. Thirty-nine of Brock's former players played professionally in 1993. Sixty-four have spent time in the major leagues, including 11 last year--superstar Barry Bonds most prominent among them. Most of this year's starters will sign pro contracts after next month's draft.

Brock is one of Arizona's most enduring, feared, controversial and grudgingly respected sports figures. To those who know Sun Devil baseball, his continued success is no mystery: He simply prepares his already skilled players harder and better than most others in his field.

ASU fans asked this season at Packard Stadium to describe the coach came up with these adjectives: Slave-driving, cranky, sarcastic, abrasive, intimidating, hot-blooded and umpire-baiting.

It's true that Brock is a curmudgeon in the grand tradition of baseball field bosses. What hasn't been so apparent to fans is his coolly analytical mind, his keen sense of humor, his interest in things beyond baseball, his nagging insecurities.

The contradictions within Jim Brock have made him something of a mystery even to himself:

He is a born-again Christian who nonetheless rails against "God's plan' types who tell other people how to think. . . ."

He's spent his life surrounded by jocks, but it's never troubled him that his only son's best weapon is his mind.

He's obsessed with winning, but maintains such a hard line on discipline that he has suspended front-line players at the College World Series for breaking team rules he could have ignored.

He is a supremely confident coach who wonders yet if his boss and the public appreciate his accomplishments.

Despite his complexities, Brock had always seemed to find the right answers during his 57 years.

As a young man, he'd mastered a bad stutter to become a gifted public speaker. He'd faced his own demons after a star ASU player shattered an ankle in a punitive sliding drill. In the mid-1980s, he'd survived his program's off-the-field woes.

Long ago, Jim Brock had steeled himself to run the course, and damned if anyone got in his way. But in July 1993, doctors diagnosed Brock with cancer, a disease with a mind, will and personality as potent as his own. He was a man who had equated uncertainty with weakness. Suddenly, he was holding on for dear life and dealing with the joyless business of chemotherapy.

Doctors removed 80 percent of his liver, ten inches of his colon and three lymph nodes in an operation that guaranteed nothing. For Brock, his wife of 38 years, Patsey, and their two grown children, Jim Brock Jr. and Cathi Brock, it had been the worst of times.

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