"I got to see a different side of him than being the manager of the Giants," said Houston, the president of Purple Heart Anglers. "I got to see a guy who was absolutely engaged in being with a veteran and being supportive."
Purple Heart Anglers is a nonprofit organization devoted to creating opportunities for disabled veterans to fish and hunt. Bochy and his wife, Kim, lent their time and support to the group during a recent visit to Costa Rica that included three days of fishing. Zancudo Lodge in southern Costa Rica hosted the trip and donated its world-class fishing lodge.
Houston heard Bochy exult over catching a 250-pound blue marlin. Houston also heard Bochy playfully threaten to throw him off the boat when luckier marlins, as well as rooster fish and red snappers, avoided a similar fate. "When the fish weren't biting, it was my fault," Houston said.
Houston had some experience with the baseball world. His wife, Deborah, is a former Giants front-office employee and served as project manager during the construction of AT&T Park (nee Pacific Bell Park). Houston appreciated Bochy's genial nature.
"Bruce is a very normal guy, for lack of a better word," Houston said.
And Bochy appreciated having a good time while helping a worthy cause. He praised Purple Heart Anglers for enabling veterans "really have fun, relax and probably take a lot of stress off."
Helping veterans comes naturally to Bochy. His father, Gus, served in the U.S. Army. Besides Bochy, another high-profile supporter of Purple Heart Anglers is Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), whose 14th Congressional District extends from the southern portion of San Francisco through San Mateo County to East Palo Alto. She attended a Purple Heart Anglers fundraising event last year.
Houston didn't have to search for inspiration when he founded Purple Heart Anglers in November 2009. His older brother, Jerry, received two Purple Hearts for his service in Vietnam. Since the group's inception, it has sent 1,800 veterans on fishing outings -- not just to exotic places such as Costa Rica, but more frequently around Northern California, though a trip to Ketchikan, Alaska, is being planned.
At these events, Randy Houston sees a wide range of people. Some are as young as 20. Some are much older.
"We've had a 96-year-old World War II veteran with us," Houston said. "We've had a 92-year-old World War II bomber pilot with us." The veterans' afflictions include "everything from PTSD and traumatic brain injuries to missing limbs and the paralyzed."
For his deeds, Houston was inducted into the California Outdoors Hall of Fame three years ago.
"It's kind of strange," Houston said, "because I get recognized for doing something I believe is just something that needs to be done."
For more information on Purple Heart Anglers, please visit www.purpleheartanglers.org.