Giants or Dodgers? This Shasta County native has seen both sides of historic rivalry
The sound of aluminum bats being swung could be heard at Simpson University as a towering 6-foot-2 figure with a clean red T-shirt watches and gives instructions to the softball team.
Those familiar with the lore of Redding sports know the well-postured man as 51-year-old Petie Roach.
Roach was a member of the famed Central Valley High School basketball program that became the first boys team from the CIF Northern Section to win a state basketball championship in 1989.
But Roach, even more impressively, had an 8-year career in professional baseball. He was drafted by the San Francisco Giants in 1992 — but he played five of his eight seasons as a pitcher in the Los Angeles Dodgers organization.
"Growing up I spent a lot of time at Candlestick Park watching Willie McCovey and Vida Blue and the Giants are that local flavor," Roach said. "I did not like the Dodgers growing up. That rivalry was something special and when I got drafted by the Giants, everyone around town was really excited."
Roach admitted that sports fans in Shasta County were puzzled when he was released by the Giants and signed with the Dodgers in 1994.
"The common theme around here was we're glad you get to keep playing," Roach said, "But why do you have to go to the Dodgers?"
Roach currently finds himself stuck in the middle of baseball's biggest rivalry because he played for both teams. The Giants and Dodgers are playing each other in the NLDS and the series is tied at 1-1, with Game 3 scheduled in Los Angeles at 6:30 p.m. on Monday.
The Giants (107-55) and the Dodgers (106-56) were also the MLB's two best teams in 2021.
Roach has watched the series closely and gave his analysis as to why both teams have performed at a high level this season.
"Any time you win that many games it comes down to the chemistry and teamwork," Roach said. "The biggest thing you'll see is that neither team is ever out of a game. When you believe as a team you're never out of a game, good things are going to happen. That's teamwork and that's everything you dream of as a manager. How do you win that many games (like the Dodgers) and end up with a Wild Card berth?"
Roach, having played in both organizations, understands the competitive mindset and what's at stake during this postseason.
"When you go to spring training with the Giants and Dodgers, a lot of the hall of famers for each organization are there," Roach said. "So when you're playing and talking about the rivalry, you don't want to let those guys down that came before you."
Roach added that fans are as important to the Giants and Dodgers rivalry as the players.
"The best part about rivalries is the fans," Roach said. "As a player you want to do your job and you want to be successful, but you don't want to let the fans down, either. The rivalry in sports allows fans to get away from their day job and the problems in the world. I thank both organizations for giving me an opportunity."
Life in the minors
Roach was a left-handed first baseman and pitcher at the University of Nevada, Reno after one season at Shasta College. He had a propensity for hitting line drives and finding gaps when he was drafted in the ninth round by the Giants in 1992.
He had a career .338 on base percentage in the minor leagues within the Giants organization and hit 27 doubles during two seasons with the Short A Everett Giants in Washington and Single-A Clinton Giants in Iowa.
"It was just a great feeling to have that opportunity to give back to the local kids and local community during the offseason," Roach said.
But Roach also struggled to hit for consistency during his two seasons within the Giants organization. He batted .212 in 1992 during his rookie season in Short-A. Roach improved slightly in 1993 and hit for a combined .219 batting average during his second season in Short-A and Single-A before being released in 1994.
"Coming into professional baseball there are growing pains and when making the transition, everyone is an all-star now," Roach said. "Just being in the right place and the right time helps as well and the Giants had Will Clark and some pretty good outfielders. I was fortunate enough to also have a background in pitching."
"When I was let go by the Giants, I was just looking for an opportunity to stay in the game."
Roach continued his professional baseball career with the Dodgers organization until 1999. During Roach's first season with the Giants organization, he was teammates with first baseman Paul Konerko. Konerko later became a six-time All-Star with the Chicago White Sox.
When Roach went to the Dodgers, he became teammates with 2003 batting champion and 2004 World Series champion Bill Mueller. He was also teammates with current Red Sox manager Alex Cora.
He also competed against two-time All-Star and 2005 Home Run Derby champion Bobby Abreu, two-time Gold Glove catcher and 2002 World Series champion Bengie Molina and current Cincinnati Reds manager David Bell.
"Being around that kind of talent every day was just an amazing show to watch," Roach said. "Every day you're at the field at 7:05 p.m. the (Star-Spangled Banner) is going and you're watching the greatest players in history coming through."
Among his favorite memories was playing and attending spring training for the Dodgers in Vero Beach, Florida.
"The organization at the time was family friendly and was still owned by the O'Malley family," Roach said. "When I got moved from Yakima to Vero Beach. Everything was manicured beautifully from the little condos to the dining hall. As a baseball fan, to step onto the famed Dodgertown was an amazing experience."
Roach recalled the first time buttoning his blue and white jersey.
"It really was weird putting on that Dodgers uniform," Roach said. "I wasn't a Dodger fan growing up. In fact, I hated them. But I got to say after my experience right from the beginning, I'm Dodgers now. I pull for them because I had a better experience there."
Roach said he saw future Hall of Fame outfielder Ken Griffey Jr. in his debut when the Everett Giants played against the Bellingham Mariners in 1992.
"My very first day in the minor leagues we walked out for the ('Star-Spangled Banner') and Ken Griffey Jr.'s younger brother Craig is on the Bellingham team," Roach said. "I turned around and behind me was Ken Griffey Sr. and Ken Griffey Jr. standing in the press box because Ken Griffey Jr. had broken his hand."
"You just think to yourself, wow. I get paid to do this. I get paid to play baseball."
Roach's best season was in 1997 for the Double-A San Antonio Missions and Triple-A Albuquerque Dukes. He started in all 13 appearances he made with the Missions and finished with a 7-4 record with 56 strikeouts.
Roach never made it to the major leagues, but he still lived his childhood dream. "Growing up from the time I was five years old was to play professional baseball," Roach said.
"I was given that opportunity and not many people get that chance. There were so many great ball players here in Redding that were better than me and didn't get that opportunity. I'm very thankful for having that chance."
True to his roots
Roach is now a sergeant for the Redding California Highway Patrol and has lived in Shasta County for over 20 years. He's a volunteer coach at Simpson and volunteers at various Little League baseball facilities in Shasta County, teaching baseball and softball to children.
"I loved growing up here and it's where I'm from," Roach said. "For me it's about giving other kids an opportunity to get drafted and move on, or, with the girls, give them opportunities to play. If I can make them successful, they're going to want to continue playing and if I can provide that chance for kids to play, that's a successful day for me."
Roach is also reminded every day of the contributions his former coach John Strohmayer made for his career. Strohmayer led Roach and Central Valley to the 1989 state championship. Strohmayer was a major league pitcher who played for the Montreal Expos and New York Mets. He passed away in 2019.
"What a great opportunity to play for John Strohmayer who as far as coaching and competitive people to learn from was one of the greatest," Roach said. "Growing up he taught camps and I was always talking to him about hitting and pitching. I told him all I ever wanted to do was play baseball and he was a great resource. I wanted to follow in his shoes."
Ethan Hanson started working for the Redding Record Searchlight after four years with the Los Angeles Daily News as a freelancer. His coverage includes working the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament in South Bend, Indiana, and writing about the St. Louis Rams' move to Los Angeles with the Ventura County Star. He began his career as a play-by-play broadcaster for LA Pierce College from 2011-2017. Follow him on Twitter at @EthanAHanson_RS.