For Bochy, kicking tobacco is mind over matter

For Bochy, kicking tobacco is mind over matter

For Bochy, kicking tobacco is mind over matter
SAN FRANCISCO -- After making the short walk to AT&T Park from his nearby residence, Giants manager Bruce Bochy used to reach instinctively for a dip.

That's no surprise to Giants bench coach Ron Wotus. One of the first things his generation of players did upon breaking into the game, he said, was grab the chewing tobacco.

"It was everywhere," Wotus said. "Baseball and tobacco went together."

Everywhere, in this case, used to include the lower lips of Bochy, bullpen catcher Billy Hayes and longtime equipment manager Mike Murphy. But not anymore, thanks to highly effective hypnosis sessions in Arizona with medical hypnotherapist AlVera Paxson.

Bochy kicked the habit -- a common one among baseball players, coaches and managers -- after meeting with Paxson on the Giants' early season road trip to Arizona. He hasn't dipped since April 14. Hayes hasn't used it Jan. 26, nor has Murphy in two years. The suggestion to visit Paxson and try hypnosis came first from Murphy's wife, Carole, who stopped smoking with help from Paxson. So the chain began, from Carole Murphy to Mike Murphy, from Murphy to Hayes and, finally, from Hayes to Bochy.

"I've been trying to stop the dipping. I know it's a bad habit. It's not a good example, either," Bochy said. "Once you start, it's like smoking -- it's hard to get off it.

"She did a great job, because I'm not doing it now. I'm thankful."

Bochy's session with Paxson, first reported on by The Associated Press, was the most recent of several attempts to quit dipping. He had given it up before, only to feel the urges return shortly afterward. Bochy said he is surprised that he doesn't even crave the smokeless tobacco anymore, especially with some of his players using it in the dugout.

"There's no triggers there anymore. I believe in it," Bochy said of the hypnosis. "I was skeptical when I went, but once I left, it was pretty neat to see how it all went."

Hayes described his session with Paxson in great detail earlier this week, more than half a year after it happened.

After reading and hearing about the harmful effects of what he was putting into his body, he reclined in a chair, almost lying flat. Paxson told him to relax and keep his eyes closed, which was a struggle for the first 10 minutes or so, Hayes said, but became easier as the three-hour session wore on. Hayes wasn't entirely sure if he was hypnotized -- "I wasn't out, and she wasn't making me walk like a chicken or say stuff. You're aware of where you were," he said -- but he vividly recalled several specifics of the session.

At one point while Hayes was still awake, Paxson took a clear bottle filled with what Hayes thought looked like motor oil, which he assumed to represent tar and nicotine, and shook it at him. Later on, when Hayes said he was "almost asleep" but aware of what Paxson was saying, he remembers walking up to the back passenger-side window of a four-door car and seeing the window roll down, at which point he produced a similar clear bottle and began shaking it.

"Just like she did to me," Hayes recalled. "That was kind of weird."

Upon waking up, "Immediately I went, 'Oh man, I want a dip.' But then something went, 'Nope, don't do it,'" Hayes said, snapping his fingers. "When you're hooked on that as long as I had done it, you probably wouldn't go more than an hour when you're awake without one."

But it worked for Hayes, even if he still occasionally indulges in imitation snuff. And it has worked for Bochy, although Wotus smiled as he thought back to the few weeks after Bochy's session.

"He was a little bit on edge. He was a little bit more ornery than usual," Wotus said. "But you know what? Recently, if he still hasn't dipped, then I guess it's working. He seems like his normal self, so I think he's over that rough patch."

Giants reliever Jeremy Affeldt said he noticed Bochy chewing a lot more gum than usual, another method of stress relief for those who don't dip. There has been an all-encompassing ban on tobacco products in the Minor Leagues since 1993, and Affeldt doesn't use it, but he admitted getting rid of it in the Majors would be a touchy situation because you're asking grown men to eliminate habits they might have had for dozens of years.

But Affeldt was a little more certain regarding his stance on the hypnosis Bochy, Hayes and Murphy underwent.

"You would have to make me a believer. It's worked for Bochy," Affeldt said. "I have no experience with it, but I'm a little bit more on the skeptical side of things like that. You'd have to prove it to me before I would be a believer."

Hayes is certainly a believer. He has given Paxson's card to several other people since his session, saying, "It's just a blessing that it happened that way."

Count Bochy among the believers in hypnosis as well, even if he doesn't know for sure if he'll stay away from his old habit as the stress piles up during the final months of the Giants' season.

"I feel better about it, and hopefully I won't crank it up again. But all these tight games, you don't know," Bochy said. "There's so many triggers. But right now, I feel very good about it."

Adam Berry is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.