BROCK SOLID

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

Clearly, though, most of the pressure on Brock was self-inflicted.
"I yelled and screamed constantly and ran my team into the ground," he recalls unhappily. "I was overcompensating and trying to show who was boss, because the players were mostly Bobby's, and I was too much of a tyrant. It goes back to that coach-as-actor thing. I was not a good actor at that point."
@rule:
@body:Jim Brock takes his players out to second base for a class in base running. He pulls out a slip of paper with handwritten notes about plays that went amiss in the previous series.

One of Brock's tenets: Make the routine plays over and over and we will win most of the time.

He turns to Damon Lembi, a big first baseman who transferred to ASU from a California junior college before this season.

Though he's been with the Devils a short time, Lembi has made his presence felt as a clutch player and a strong personality. He's more man than boy, though he fantasizes about being Guns N' Roses' lead singer Axl Rose, with thousands of females gyrating before him.

"About the steal attempt, Damon," Brock says, "and I use the word 'attempt' advisedly."
The slow-footed Lembi knows what's coming, and he smiles weakly.
As a runner on first base during the weekend, he took off on a 2-0 pitch on a steal attempt. USC's catcher threw him out by ten feet.

"I thought I saw the steal sign, Coach," Lembi tells Brock.
"Oh, it's the old 'I thought I saw the sign,'" the coach replies sarcastically. "Damon, there was no sign. But if there was, you must get a big enough lead where you have at least a chance of making it. It goes back to the old 'If you can't run, don't.' Understand?"
"Yes, sir," Lembi says. "It won't happen again."
"No, it won't," Brock shoots back. "That will only happen one time."

Lembi and the team know the coach is kidding--sort of. They break into laughter as Brock orders them to their next drill.

@rule:
@body:Jim Brock's family immersed itself in ASU baseball from the git-go. Wife Pat took care of the travel arrangements and other tasks, on a voluntary basis. Son Jim Jr.--everyone called him "Bucky" then--was the ASU team bat boy for years.

"My kids will probably never spend three or four hours at work with me like I did with him," says Jim Jr. "When I go to Packard now, I still hear voices in the stands that I remember from years ago. It's a wonderful thing. Dad is very focused on winning, but I never felt it was a negative. He never really got mad at me because of a loss--he'd just usually brood."
Born in 1962, Jim Jr. was graced with brains, not athletic ability, which didn't bother his dad in the least.

"I didn't want Bucky to be a ballplayer, though Pat certainly did," Brock says. "I didn't want him to face the pressure of being 'Jim Brock's son.' But when he was about 9, Pat pushed me to play ball with him and, of course, I obeyed her."
Father and son went to a Mesa park. As Brock had anticipated, his son had great difficulty catching and hitting. Patience isn't one of Brock's finer qualities, but, true to his word to be patient with Bucky, he stayed calm and positive.

"Next day," the coach remembers, "I said, 'Bucky, time to go to the park again.' He's studying the World Book or something. He says, 'Dad, do we have to go every day?' 'Nope,' I said. Within a few years, he was writing musicals, was star of his debate team and was on his way to being a lawyer. He was one for whom baseball was not a necessity."
The Brock children insist their dad was not the ogre he has portrayed himself as. But there's no doubt that Brock's personal hellhounds tailed him to Tempe after he became a Devil.

He admits he believed--and still does, to a lesser degree--that he had to win, win, win and win or be viewed as a failure at life itself.

Then, early in the 1974 season, came the crisis.
One of Brock's favorite players at the time was Bump Wills, the talented son of famed Los Angeles Dodger base-stealing wizard Maury Wills. The coach loved the way the younger Wills hustled and performed.

And there was something else. Bump was a serious stutterer, and Brock felt a special kinship with him because of it.

The Sun Devils' 1974 season started poorly. Brock, typically, drove his team harder and harder. One day, as punishment for their poor play, the coach ordered the players to practice sliding until they could barely move.

Wills slid into third base for the umpteenth time at the end of the draining drill. This time, his spikes caught and ASU's best player that year shattered his ankle and, Brock was convinced, his future baseball career.

The coach knew he had crossed the line. In a span of one guilt-ridden day, he considered resigning, was told by Wills not to blame himself, drove around the Valley aimlessly for hours and, he says, found God.

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