Former Cerritos College pitcher Bob Apodaca announces retirement

Former Cerritos College pitcher Bob Apodaca announces retirement from baseball
Former Cerritos College pitcher Bob Apodaca announces retirement from baseball

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After spending over 50 years in baseball, former Cerritos College baseball player Bob Apodaca has announced his retirement. Apodaca was a converted high school third baseman from Warren High and spent the 1968-69 seasons as a pitcher for the Falcons under legendary coach Wally Kincaid. After two seasons pitching at Cal State Los Angeles, Apodaca signed as a free agent with the New York Mets in 1971. He made his Major League debut in one game in 1973 and then spent five years with the Mets before injuries ended his playing career. Apodaca immediately went into coaching, and served as a pitching coach for three organizations before announcing his retirement in June, 2020.

Apodaca was part of a 1968 team that had two players drafted by the Major Leagues, while an amazing 11 players were drafted from the 1969 season, including four that would go on to be head coaches at various levels. Dave Snow spent 13 seasons as a head coach at Cal State Long Beach, while teammate Mike Weathers succeeded him and was the 49'ers head coach for nine years. In addition, Gordie Douglas became the head coach for the Falcons in 1978 and then from 1981-84, while Bob Sheehan went on to a Hall of Fame high school coaching career at Chino High.

"This was going to be my final year of coaching (2020), so the craziness of the timing let me know it was time," said Apodaca, who resides in Pascoe, WA with his wife of three years, Rene and her two children. "I figured that 50 years in baseball was enough and this is allowing me to be a better husband, father, stepfather and grandfather. Apodaca and his first wife, Rita, had three children - sons Bobby (46) and Josh (41), along with daughter Toby (44).

Bob Apodaca pitching for the New York Mets Apodaca's baseball career almost never got started. Upon graduating from Warren High, thoughts of joining the military were in the forefront of his mind. That was reinforced when no recruits came looking for him. Even while playing in a summer league at Rio Hondo College after high school didn't spark interest from any coaches - at first. But then the call came from Falcons legendary head coach Wally Kincaid.

"Coach Kincaid never talked to me when I was in high school or when I was playing summer ball," remembered Apodaca. "I knew that I was just OK as a player, so it didn't really surprise me. But several days after a summer league game, Coach called me and asked if I would consider playing at Cerritos. I did think about it for a few days and then called him back and said yes. Having Coach reach out to me helped plant the seed in my head that maybe I could play ball."

"I came in as a third baseman and remember struggling at the plate in the pre-season and Coach Kincaid called me over," added Apodaca. "I immediately thought that he was going to tell me what I needed in order to be a better player. He said that nobody had a better work ethic than me. He said I just lacked two things - I couldn't hit and I couldn't run. He followed that by telling me, 'if that doesn't sound like a pitcher to me, then I don't know what does'. From that moment, I was a pitcher."

Working with both Kindaid and pitching coach Butch Hughes, who went on to a very successful head coaching career at Merced College and as a minor league pitching coach, they molded Apodaca into a relief pitcher. He saw limited innings with the Falcons and averaged around 30 innings in each of his two seasons. But the lessons taught were enough to earn him a spot on the Cal State Los Angeles baseball team, where he was a two-time All-Pacific Coast Athletic Association selection and their Most Valuable Player as a senior.

"One thing that always stuck with me about Coach Kincaid was that he never pulled any punches with the players, which I respected," said Apodaca, who utilized his teachings throughout his playing and coaching career. "As a team, we were well-coordinated and everything was timed and organized. There was no wasted movement. Everybody had an assignment at all times during practice. Just the way we took infield practice before each game would intimidate opponents. The only sounds you heard were the ball off the fungo bat and the sound of the ball hitting the glove. Nothing was said between the players because we were focused on the task at hand. It was so silent, we were like a team of Charlie Chaplins."

That day-to-day attention to detail and precision carried over to Apodaca's professional career. He signed with Visalia of the California League right when his senior season at Cal State LA came to a conclusion. In just one month of playing, he went 7-1 in 13 games and threw 70 innings with a 3.60 ERA. That earned him a promotion to the Double-A Memphis Redbirds in 1972, where he went 11-7 and 125 strikeouts in 170 innings, as he spent the first full season of his career as a starting pitcher. The following season saw him propel to not only the Triple-A Tidewater Tides, where he went 6-3 with 11 saves as a converted closer, but he appeared in one game for the major league Mets. He walked both batters he faced against the Pittsburgh Pirates. But the experience helped prepare him for his promotion to the big leagues the following season.

The ascension to the major leagues caught him off-guard as much as anyone.

"I only played baseball when I started because I just enjoyed the game," stated Apocada. "I didn't know I could do any of the things I completed until I got older. Even in the minor leagues, it didn't hit me that I could be successful and accomplish some of the things I did until I reached Triple-A. I was just focused on doing my job, hitting my spots and working hard. I only pitched 30 innings each season at Cerritos. In fact, in one of the games, I came on in relief in a game at the Allan Hancock Tournament and ended up pitching 8 2/3 innings. I had never done that before and didn't know I would go that long. I just went out and tried to execute my pitches. I even went on to pitch 12 2/3 innings in a minor league game. Never knew I could do that, either."

Upon making the major league team in 1974, Apodaca earned a save in his first game of the season and concluded the year with a 6-6 record with three saves and a 3.50 ERA. He became the team's closer in 1975 after Tug McGraw was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies and posted a team-high 13 saves to go along with a 3-4 record and 1.49 ERA. Skip Lockwood became the team's closer the following season, but Apodaca still came in to register five saves with a 3-7 record and 2.81 ERA. His final full season was in 1977 when he went 4-8 out of the bullpen with five saves and a 3.41 ERA. An injury in 1978 shelved him for the season, and would result in the beginning of the end to his playing career.

"I still remember the day - April 1, 1978," said Apodaca. "I tore a ligament in my elbow and had to have what is now known as "Tommy John" surgery", which originated in 1974 when the Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher had the first surger in 1974. "At that time, there really was no template on how to rehab after that surgery. Just think, if Tommy John never had to have that surgery and when I did, they would have called it 'Bob Apodaca surgery'. That's a mouthful. I ended up coming back way too soon, which led to more elbow injuries and surgeries."

Former Cerritos College pitcher Bob Apodaca After taking off the entire 1978 season, Apodaca tried to pitch in Tidewater in 1979 and struggled in a pair of appearances, which forced him to shut down once again. He underwent another surgery, which canceled his 1980 season, while an abbreviated 1981 year in Double-A Jackson marked the end of his playing career.

"The Mets farm director at the time asked if I'd stay in the organization as a coach," stated Apodaca. "He said they liked my tenacity and work ethic - which I learned from Coach Kincaid. I had to adjust from preparing myself and understanding what I was capable of, to doing that with an entire staff. Fortunately, the Mets had Mel Stottlemyer as their pitching coach and I was able to learn so much from him. He, along with Coach Kincaid and Butch Hughes, were great mentors and I was able to apply a lot of when I learned from them into my coaching career."

Apodaca spent 15 seasons working his way up through the Mets minor league system as a pitching coach and made stops at every level. 'Dac', as he's known in the league, felt that being able to do so allowed him to develop relationships with the players while working on teaching them. Apodaca used an approach of 'talking about the positive' instead of focusing on the negative. He even took a class in the off-season early on in his career on the proper way to ask questions.

"My responsibility was to help them become better players and I stressed the process over the result," said Apodaca. "I would tell the pitchers that their job was to hit their target. The more targets they hit would equal more outs. When I was a player, I never looked beyond today, and I talked with my pitchers about that. Try not to get too caught up in what happened the day before, or even the previous batter. This game can speed up on you very quickly, so having the ability to work on your mechanics, embrace the challenges and maintain your focus would result in more positive outcomes. It's the basic instructions that I learned when I was a pitcher and it hasn't changed."

Apodaca went on to serve as the pitching coach for the Milwaukee Brewers from 2000-01 after the Mets decided to make a change in their staff. He finished his two seasons with Milwaukee and then returned to the Mets organization as the pitching coach for their minor league affiliate in St. Lucie, FL, where he was now living. But when Clint Hurdle, who he met when coaching in the Mets organization earlier in his career, was named the manager of the Colorado Rockies, the call back to the major leagues brought Apodaca back to the bigs.

"I was so happy working with the young guys in Florida and I was able to sleep in my bed every night," stated Apodaca. "That league had the best travel schedule and I wasn't interested - at first. But when Clint and I talked and he offered me the job, I couldn't turn it down."

Back in the major leagues, Apodaca was now working in a location that was know to be a hitter's ballpark and not too friendly for pitchers. But that didn't deter the veteran coach who was thrilled to take on the challenge.

"When I was in Colorado (2002-12), I never brought up geography with the players," added Apodaca. "The media brought it up all the time and I told them the same thing I told my players. Once the ball leaves your hand, there's nothing you can do about it. If you hit your targets more than you don't, then you will experience success."

In seven of his seasons, Apodaca had one of his pitchers earn All-Star recognition. In 2007, they were the National League Wild Card team and went on to sweep both the Phillies and Arizona Diamondbacks to reach the World Series. After a three-game losing streak in the middle of September, the Rockies went on to post a 14-1 record the remainder of the season that earned them the post-season bid.

"After sweeping through the playoffs that season, we had an eight-day layoff before starting the World Series (against the Boston Red Sox)," remembered Apodaca. "We tried to play simulated games, but I think the momentum we had by winning 21 of our last 22 games (including the playoffs) went away. We worked very hard to be prepared, but it didn't work out."

Five years after that ascension to the World Series, Apodaca stepped down as the pitching coach midway through the 2012 season as the Rockies struggled to play well. He was promoted to Special Assistant to General Manager Dan O'Dowd, which allowed him to re-focus on his career and look at the team's minor league system. Missing the 'pure love' of the game that he had for so many years, Apodaca embraced the chance to work with the younger players on their development.

"I wanted to get back to developing the players from the lowest levels of the minor leagues," continued Apodaca. "I enjoyed the purity of teaching the game and the approach of teaching, as opposed to winning. The years I spent in the minor leagues and major leagues prepared me to be able to answer any question any player would have for me. And I was happy to share all that I knew."

"Back during the 2009 season, we traded for Jason Marquis to join our pitching staff (in Colorado)," said Apodaca. "He had been with the Atlanta Braves and played in the World Series with the St. Louis Cardinals. We picked him up from the (Chicago) Cubs and he's a great example of what it was like getting to know players. He mentioned that he was content with the way things were in his career and the money he was making. But I was determined to work with him on becoming a better all-around pitcher. He already had a great sinker and that year, he was named to the All-Star team for the first time in his career. He had a great first half of the year, but got caught up in his own head and struggled the second half of the season. At the end of the season, he gave me his All-Star uniform and wrote 'thank you for pushing me to be the pitcher I didn't think I could be.' I have that uniform framed in my house."

"The appreciation he had for someone making the effort to work with them was what I felt when Coach Kincaid saw something in me and I didn't know I had," continued Apodaca. "The things I learned in those early years helped me develop my career, which I am truly thankful for."

1967 Graduated from Warren High 3rd Baseman All-League selection
1968 Cerritos College Pitcher 2nd Place Metropolitan Conference
1969 Cerritos College Pitcher Metropolitan Conference Co-Champions
1970 Cal State Los Angeles Pitcher All-Pacific Coast Athletic Association
1971 Cal State Los Angeles Pitcher All-Pacific Coast Athletic Association/Team MVP/Signed as Free Agent with NY Mets
1971 Visaila - Short Season A League (NY Mets) Pitcher 7-1 Record; 3.60 ERA
1972 Memphis Redbirds - AA League (NY Mets) Pitcher 11-7 Record; 2.81 ERA
1973 Tidewater Tides - AAA League (NY Mets) Pitcher 6-3 Record; 1.80 ERA/Made MLB debut and appeared in one game
1974 New York Mets Pitcher 6-6 Record; 3 Saves; 3.50 ERA; Earned save in first appearance
1975 New York Mets Pitcher 3-4 Record; 13 Saves (led team); 1.49 ERA
1976 New York Mets Pitcher 3-7 Record; 5 Saves; 2.81 ERA
1977 New York Mets Pitcher 4-8 Record; 5 Saves; 3.41 ERA
1978 New York Mets Pitcher Missed season with an injury
1979 Tidewater Tides - AAA League (NY Mets) Pitcher 0-2 Record; 15.75 ERA - Missed most of the season with an injury
1980 New York Mets Pitcher Missed season with an injury
1981 Jackson Generals - AA League (NY Mets) Pitcher 1-3 Record; 7.56 ERA; Retired due to injuries
1982 Little Falls (Short Season A League) Pitching Coach  
1983 Jackson Generals - AA League Pitching Coach  
1984 Columbia Mets - A League Pitching Coach  
1985 Columbia Mets - A League Pitching Coach  
1986 Columbia Mets - A League Pitching Coach League Champions
1987 Columbia Mets - A League Pitching Coach  
1988 St. Lucie Mets - AA League Pitching Coach  
1989 Jackson Generals - AA League  Pitching Coach  
1990 Jackson Generals - AA League Pitching Coach  
1991 Tidewater Tides - AAA League Pitching Coach  
1992 Tidewater Tides - AAA League Pitching Coach  
1993 Tidewater Tides - AAA League Pitching Coach  
1994 Tidewater Tides - AAA League Pitching Coach  
1995 Tidewater Tides - AAA League Pitching Coach  
1996 Tidewater Tides - AAA League/New York Mets - MLB Pitching Coach  
1997 New York Mets - MLB Pitching Coach Bobby Jones - All-Star Pitcher
1998 New York Mets - MLB Pitching Coach Rick Reed - All-Star Pitcher
1999 New York Mets - MLB Pitching Coach National League Wild Card/Lost to Atlanta Braves in Wild Card Game
2000 Milwaukee Brewers - MLB Pitching Coach Bob Wickman - All-Star Pitcher
2001 Milwaukee Brewers - MLB Pitching Coach Ben Sheets - All-Star Pitcher
2002 St. Lucie Mets - AA League/Colorado Rockies - MLB Pitching Coach  
2003 Colorado Rockies - MLB Pitching Coach Shawn Chacon - All-Star Pitcher
2004 Colorado Rockies - MLB Pitching Coach  
2005 Colorado Rockies - MLB Pitching Coach Brian Fuentes - All-Star Pitcher
2006 Colorado Rockies - MLB Pitching Coach Brian Fuentes - All-Star Pitcher
2007 Colorado Rockies - MLB Pitching Coach Lost to Boston in World Series/National League Wild Card/Brian Fuentes - All-Star Pitcher
2008 Colorado Rockies - MLB Pitching Coach Aaron Cook - All-Star Pitcher
2009 Colorado Rockies - MLB Pitching Coach National League Wild Card/Lost to Philadelphia in NL Division Series/Jason Marquis - All-Star Pitcher
2010 Colorado Rockies - MLB Pitching Coach Ubaldo Jimenez - All-Star Pitcher
2011 Colorado Rockies - MLB Pitching Coach  
2012 Colorado Rockies - MLB Pitching Coach  
2013 Colorado Rockies - MLB Special Asst. to GM  
2014 Colorado Rockies  Minor League Instructor  
2015 Colorado Rockies Minor League Instructor  
2016 Colorado Rockies Minor League Instructor  
2017 Colorado Rockies Minor League Instructor  
2018 Boise Hawks - Class A Short Season League Pitching Coach  
2019 Boise Hawks - Class A Short Season League Pitching Coach  
2020 Boise Hawks - Class A Short Season League Pitching Coach