"Did you hear about Pete Bock?"
When I received an email two weeks ago from a member of the UNC baseball family
containing those six words, I knew it couldn't be good. With Pete Bock being close to
70-years-old, I naturally thought the worst.
Lindsay Wilkinson, the wife of a former teammate at Carolina and a friend of
Bock, relayed to me that the "worst" thing didn't happen to Bock, but sadly, it was
pretty darn close.
After an ice storm hit North Carolina, Bock, who lives near Raleigh, slipped and fell
in his backyard. His wife, Cindy, rushed to his side only to fall and break her hip.
Hearing this was like a punch to the gut that sucked nearly every ounce of oxygen from
my entire body. It was sad, tragic, and seemingly so unfair. Anyone who has walked this
earth long enough knows that life can be cruel and terrible tragedies occur everyday, but
this just wasn't right.
Bock hit his head in the fall and is paralyzed below the waist. He underwent a second
surgery last Monday for a tracheotomy. In an instant, his life, which has been an amazing
one, has been changed forever. I am praying the man I affectionately call, "The Reverend"
pulls through and stands on his feet once again.
Bock is simply a beautiful man, one of great character, honor, and respect. He's one of
those guys who will not only give you the shirt off his back, but his entire wardrobe as
well. He'd tell you to keep it, too. Smart, witty, and funny, Bock is the consummate
family man who adores and cherishes his wife, Cindy, every single day.
If there is a "Mr. Baseball" in North Carolina, Bock is it. He helped start the Durham
Bulls minor-league franchise as the general manager in 1980. He had been an umpire
in the Carolina League where the Bulls, thanks to the hit movie, "Bull Durham," became
the gold standard of minor-league franchises.
Bock would later become the general manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates AAA franchise
in Hawaii and in 1997, founded the Coastal Plain League, a collegiate baseball summer
league that lists Kevin Youkilis and Justin Verlander among its alums.
I first met Bock on the set of "Bull Durham" in September of 1997. He was hired to
be the baseball consultant, picking all the players and casting them into their roles
in the movie. Bock made sure that every single baseball scene looked realistic
and conducted a two-week camp for the likes of Kevin Costner and Tim Robbins to
make sure they knew how to look, act, and play like real minor-league players.
OK, so Robbins really couldn't hit water if he fell out of a boat, but his personality
was perfect to play the role of Nuke LaLoosh.
Bock was responsible for selecting me for the scene that saw Costner, as Crash Davis,
tip me off as to what pitch was coming. I really didn't think much of it at the time for
I knew there was a chance the scene would end up on the cutting room floor, but the
home run I hit would follow me around forever.
Bock appeared in the movie as well, playing the reverend who married Jenny and
a member of the Durham Bulls during a ceremony at home plate. When we left the
set after the director yelled, "that's a wrap" for the final time, none of us had any idea
that "Bull Durham" would become the baseball classic that it is today.
|Bock and Roy Williams|
Bock and I, both UNC graduates, kept in touch over the years and we'd often banter
back and forth on Facebook. I'm a Carolina graduate who is forever grateful for my
time in Chapel Hill. Bock is one of those guys who forever eats, sleeps, and breathes
everything Tar Heels.
He's donated a big chunk of money to UNC over the years and always shows up to
football, basketball, and baseball games dressed from head to toe in Carolina blue.
When UNC wins, Bock flashes his mile-wide grin. When they lose, he feels the pain
for days to come.
Pete Bock is the type of person you meet once and never forget. He is everything
right about being a man, a father, a husband, and a friend. I love Pete Bock as if he
was my own brother.
The man who has lived his life the right way, was dealt a very bad hand a few weeks
ago. Knowing Bock as I do, he will find a way to turn it into a straight flush.
"The Reverend" has the good Lord on his side and I, like so many of his friends, are
praying for him to pull through.
We love you, Pete Bock.