It's rare to see players spend more than two decades in the same uniform, but it's become just as atypical for an executive to call the same organization home for that length of time.
Bobby Evans is one of those rare cases, having just started his 24th season in the Giants' front office. After serving as San Francisco's assistant general manager for nine seasons, Evans was promoted to senior vice president and general manager in April 2015.
MLB.com sat down with Evans in his office at Scottsdale Stadium during the final days of Spring Training to discuss what he's learned from executive vice president of baseball operations Brian Sabean, what it was like watching Barry Bonds on a daily basis and why Buster Posey is so important to the Giants.
MLB.com: How did you land your first job in baseball?
Evans: I was getting ready for the second semester of my sophomore year of college, and I just knew I wanted to do some type of internship. I reached out via letter and then eventually a phone call to the Red Sox in Boston. At the same time, I did a letter and a phone call to the Celtics. The Red Sox returned the call. I ended up going through some process of interviews and discussion and ultimately ended up with a three-month internship working for Eddie Kasko and Ed Kenney under Lou Gorman's administration with the Red Sox.
I really always wanted to play the game, so it was an eye-opener for me to actually be in the front office with my childhood team in my favorite ballpark growing up and in a great city where I had not grown up far from as a child. We moved later in life to North Carolina, but I always held hope of a Red Sox career, so it was pretty cool to get an opportunity to be there.
MLB.com: You're entering your 24th season with the Giants. Is there a sense of pride in having been with the same organization for that length of time?
Evans: I think I feel more pride just that it's been with this organization in this great city with these great people. There's a lot of satisfaction. There are a lot of great executives that do move around and have good reasons for that just because of opportunities, but I think from Day 1, this is a special place. I feel very thankful to be here.
MLB.com: What have you learned most working with Brian Sabean all these years?
Evans: Brian is just a great mentor to me. He was never one to stunt growth; he always wanted to give opportunity to expand your horizons. That happened really early in my time here in the amount of work I was able to contribute. Brian comes from a very strong scouting background; his talent evaluation is very important and he's very passionate about it. His mindset from Day 1 has always been to win now. That's a great affect not only for those of us who have worked for him over the years, but also I think it's very transparent to the fans, the coaching staff and the players who have been down in those clubhouses over these last 20-plus years.
MLB.com: You joined the team a year after Barry Bonds got here. What was it like watching Bonds play baseball every day?
Evans: It was electric. Just the moments in which those home runs came, the threat of his power and his contributions; very early on, he was extremely efficient and effective as an outfielder, too. He was a five-tool player that you're watching every day. In many ways, when we got to the World Series in 2002, we knew that's really where we should be for many years. We should have had opportunities many years before that just because of his effectiveness. Very exciting player for a long time.
MLB.com: Bonds returned to the organization as a special adviser to club president and chief executive officer Larry Baer, reuniting him with the Giants on a full-time basis a decade after his final season. Has his role been ironed out?
Evans: His role will be involving the community, it will be involving the business side, and the opportunity to be in big league camp with our Major League players for at least a week every spring, then some time in the Minor Leagues, where he'll be able to speak to those guys and work with those guys. So there will be some baseball part, some business part and some community part, and it really takes a lot of fun attributes of Barry and puts them in place in the organization. Our fans are very passionate about Barry and it's just exciting to see him back.
MLB.com: The Giants had not won a World Series since they moved to San Francisco until 2010. How rewarding was that for you and everybody in the front office?
Evans: For sure. I remember talking with my son about prayer. He was 4 years old and I'm trying to explain to him what prayer is, and in that conversation, I'm almost flustered because I don't really know how to explain it. "Prayer is when you pray, and sometimes God uses the answer to that prayer as a way to reveal himself to you that he's real." I was a little bit exasperated, so I just said, "You know what? Pray for whatever you want to pray for and maybe God will use that to reveal who he is and that he's real." He said, "Well, I'm going to pray that the Giants win the World Series." My first thought was, "My son will never be a Christian," because the Giants hadn't won in over 50 years. That was what he prayed for.
A couple years later, when we won the World Series, I reminded him of that prayer. I think that's a lot of how we all felt; it just seemed so unattainable. Even though we had gotten close; we had great teams in 1997, '98, 2000, '02 and '03, yet here we are, still pursuing what seemed to be that elusive goal. When that final out came, it was electric. It was really just perspective-changing on all of us.
MLB.com: You followed with titles in 2012 and '14. After the first one, did you feel you had the core in place to go on this type of run?
Evans: The roster changed a lot from 2010-12; a little less so maybe from 2012-14. But there continues to be some common themes; Buster Posey, Madison Bumgarner, and of course Matt Cain and [Tim] Lincecum had been a part of all those. Then we had a very core part of our bullpen that was with us for all three of those. But the additions of Brandon Crawford for the last two, Brandon Belt for the last two, now Joe Panik and other guys. Yeah, it makes you feel like there's a core there that you can build on. You still have to continue to add to the club because you can't rely on just the same 25 guys. There's a lot of turnover and a lot of changes; guys move on, guys get older. With the core that we've had, you definitely get a sense that this is a special time in Giants baseball.
MLB.com: One of the more endearing things we all saw this winter was the young fan who wrote you a letter begging you to sign Mark Melancon. I'm guessing it wasn't a huge factor in the decision to sign him, but how often do you get letters like that from young fans?
Evans: You don't always know how old the fan is.
MLB.com: Maybe just bad handwriting?
Evans: You don't know. You get some that are typed; there are all different kinds of letters. Not a ton of letters, but enough, particularly from this young man. His name is Mark; he'll send me a letter -- sometimes I'll get three or four in a month -- and then I won't hear from him for a couple months. Then suddenly I get five or six over a short period of time. It was funny; I got the Mark Melancon letter and our offseason was about to start. I knew that he would be a focal point for us, so I pinned that letter and the picture -- he actually sent me an 8x10 picture of Mark.
MLB.com: Just in case you didn't know who he was, right?
Evans: Exactly. I carefully covered the hat he was wearing in the picture, but I put him up on the bulletin board and reminded our staff that he's our target. When Mark signed, I hadn't taken it down, so Mark came into the conference room where we had been meeting and he saw it. It was fun to show it to him. I hadn't really thought about it, but there it was as he was about to go into the press conference.
MLB.com: You mentioned Buster Posey as being one of the common threads between the three championship teams. That caused a lot of comparisons between him and Derek Jeter; young, a lot of championships early, the face of the franchise. How important is he to the organization on and off the field?
Evans: The character of the person is really above reproach in every way. The respect that he gets in the game is consistent with how people see him outside the game. He and his wife have a passion for helping kids with pediatric cancer and making sure that research is done to help those kids. He's recently been working with the Jimmy V Foundation and has made a big emphasis in this last year in that area. That's just one example of the person that he is.
This clubhouse depends on him; on and off the field, in the clubhouse, his style of leadership, his presence, he sets the tone in that clubhouse one way or another -- and has almost ever since he got here. He's really the quarterback on the field in calling the games; he makes every pitcher out there better, whether it be a starter or reliever, and obviously he hits in the middle of the order.
MLB.com: Including club options, you have Madison Bumgarner under control through 2019. You've said you hope he remains with the Giants "for the long haul." Is there a hope to get him signed to an extension to lock him up into the next decade?
Evans: I think there's mutual interest there at the right time. That's really the key point; what's the right time? When can we best begin those kinds of conversations? It's hard, because part of the benefit of the contract is length, and when there's three years already existing on the contract, it's harder to add the length. We really have to sort through that and ultimately come up with the right time to address it. Every one of these championships, clearly Madison Bumgarner has been a big part of it.
MLB.com: Bruce Bochy and his three rings are likely headed for the Hall of Fame someday. What makes him as good a manager as he is?
Evans: For Boch, he's always been a big proponent that players knew that he believed in them. That's really been a strength of his; when we've been at our best, he believed in the guys and they know it. That's a difference-maker. When you're out on that field, it's a game of failure. To know that your manager and your coaches are behind you even when things aren't going so good, that's a game-changer.
He's also been very successful at not only managing the team in the clubhouse and keeping them positive, he also does a lot of very strategic moves on the field. With a great bench coach and the coaches around him, there's a lot of support. But at the same time, you have to make on-the-spot decisions and he's been very successful for that reason.
MLB.com: You signed Johnny Cueto to a $130 million deal and Jeff Samardzija to a $90 million deal before 2016. You've had a core of homegrown starters that carried you through those title years; how much of a risk is it to give a big free-agent starter that kind of money given how fragile pitchers' arms are?
Evans: It takes a lot of faith in the evaluations that we have, not only from performance on the field, but ultimately our medical counsel advising us how to we'll be able to evaluate the health of the player. Some of that is done before you sign them; a lot of it is done after you sign them. There's a lot of faith, too, in the staff downstairs -- both the medical staff and the coaching staff -- to help keep guys healthy. The risk, there's been failures for us, as well. We're very early in [Cueto's] contract and we're certainly very thankful to the year he had and how good he looks this spring. This is an organization that wants to compete to win every year and it's going to take that kind of talent to do it.
MLB.com: Do you view Bumgarner and Cueto as the best 1-2 punch in baseball?
Evans: I'm biased, but yeah.
MLB.com: How do you assess the state of the National League West right now?
Evans: It's a very tough division. With what the Rockies have done and Arizona already being strong enough to just get healthy this year, not to mention L.A., it's going to be a battle. There are a lot of ballgames in our division, and even the Padres, who are rebuilding, they're not giving games away. You're going to have to compete.
MLB.com: Your every-even-year streak ended last year. Are you guys ready to start an odd-year streak now?
Evans: We're good with the odd idea. It's an odd thought, but I'm very much liking it.
Mark Feinsand is an executive reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.