SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Ask Bruce Bochy if he has a dip and San Francisco’s skipper offers up a standard response: “I don’t do that anymore.”
Bullpen catcher Bill Hayes answers the same way. Equipment manager Mike Murphy, too.
They’ve reached this point because of hypnotherapist Dr. AlVera Paxson, who is developing quite the reputation for helping the reigning World Series champion Giants kick some nasty, decades-old habits.
Bochy hasn’t touched chewing tobacco since April 14, the night before seeing Paxson during his team’s first road trip to Arizona. Hayes has gone without since Jan. 26. It’s two years down for Murphy. No carrying around those little tobacco cans for these three any longer.
Bochy had his doubts when Hayes told him in spring training this year that he had stopped dipping at last following one thorough session with Paxson, a medical hypnotherapist.
Hayes succeeded after Paxson already had aided Murphy in stopping. She also worked with Murphy’s wife, Carole, to help her quit smoking.
“I’m a believer,” said Murphy, who joined the Giants as a bat boy when the franchise moved West in 1958.
“It’s been the best $300 I ever spent,” Hayes said. “It’s weird to see how it works.”
Bochy agrees. He already would have spent well more than $300 on dip by this point in the season, he said.
Still, Bochy — a skeptic on these sorts of things — had to see for himself if he could finally kick his nearly 40-year pattern of dipping before and after games and several times during the course of nine innings. He did it in the first, fifth and eighth innings. That had been his routine for years, a go-to stress reliever to deal with the pressures of a 162-game season.
When he left Paxson’s office, minus his own $300 investment, Bochy headed straight to Chase Field for a game against the Diamondbacks.
He arrived in the clubhouse and didn’t want a dip. The game started and there were no cravings. He has handled the occasional urges ever since.
“It was really strange,” Bochy said. “There are so many triggers that you have that make you want to put a dip in. The following day, I did have an urge, not a real strong one. I said, ‘OK, I’ve had my day off, now it’s time to put one in.”‘
But he didn’t do it.
“The next game I did have an urge. The next two to three days I still had an urge, but it just wasn’t as strong as other times I’ve tried to quit,” he said. “When I got past the fourth or fifth day, I was over it. I didn’t crave it. I didn’t want it. I was fine.”
Bochy spent 3 1/2 hours in a relaxed, near-sleep state under Paxson’s guidance. She talks constantly as she walks around the room. While Hayes had his eyes closed, per Paxson’s instructions, he recalled that the strongest direction about quitting came as she spoke instructions and Hayes heard sounds resembling a stack of magazines emphatically being thrown to the ground, one by one.
Both Bochy and Hayes were asked to sit all the way back in a recliner. They gave Paxson signals they could hear her by moving a foot or finger. Each brought along a can of chew and Paxson proceeded to educate them about all the ingredients they were putting in their bodies — make that lower lips.
“It’s pretty disgusting in a year’s time how much nicotine you put in your body,” Bochy said.
Education is Paxson’s first order of business when a patient arrives. She explains the conscious and subconscious minds.
“People were not born chewing tobacco,” Paxson said in a telephone interview from Arizona. “Your mind knows how to not do something more than you know how to do something.”
Not that it’s quite that simple.
Last year, Bochy tried Nicorette gum and an array of different non-tobacco, herbal dips. He made it about a month, then hit hard times and fell back into his old dipping ways.
The 56-year-old Bochy tried his first dip at 18. He was playing in a summer league in Virginia, and his roommate from North Carolina chewed every day.
Even he didn’t know if he could give it up.
“There’s an unknown factor when you see a hypnotist,” Bochy said. “You haven’t been there, so I didn’t know what to expect. It shocked me.”
Bochy admits the stress of his team’s recent struggles — the reigning World Series champions had lost eight of 10 heading into Monday night’s home game with Pittsburgh — has had him considering “changing up the look and putting one in.”
But Paxson doesn’t think Bochy will break down and actually do it.
The 70-year-old Paxson has been doing this for 30 years.
“It’s an awesome thing,” she said. “Once you know how to work with your mind and body, it’s easy. Once you know how to do that, you can do almost anything.”
Not that the rest of the Giants are necessarily convinced. They razz Hayes because he has been seen smoking the occasional cigarette or cigar, or using the imitation snuff since seeing Paxson.
“Follow my finger. Do not smoke,” joked bench coach Ron Wotus, waving his pointer finger in a tick-tock motion. “You’re cured. Next! … A hypnotist, come on. Good for them. The mind is a powerful thing.”
Reliever Jeremy Affeldt isn’t yet a believer, either.
“That’s what they all say (that it works). I don’t buy it,” Affeldt said. “Boch is holding up pretty good, though I don’t see him behind closed doors if he’s putting something in his lip. I don’t plan on seeing (a hypnotist). I’d like to keep control of my own thoughts.”
Yet Kim Bochy is beginning to let herself believe that her husband might be done dipping for good. He has gone longer stretches before in an effort to quit, but not midseason like this.
“I told Bruce: ‘This is a true test. If you can actually do this during the baseball season and stop, that’s phenomenal,”‘ Kim Bochy said. “He has quit so many times before but always at the end of the season or going into spring training. And, the whole game thing (arrives) and he’d go right back into it. I was amazed he was going to try it in the middle of the season. It’s worked. It’s a good thing.”
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)