ANTIOCH -- His road from AAA ballplayer to school custodian was unusual, but for Mark Rocha, it's been a fine adventure.

At 17, Rocha was drafted and pitched from 1973-76 for the San Francisco Giants' minor league team.

But his glory days still shine brightly thanks to a large display of Giants memorabilia that Rocha himself loans and sets up at Dallas Ranch Middle School in Antioch, where he has been the head custodian for nearly 11 years. He enjoys sharing his beloved treasures with students and staff.

The display, which has been up for nine years, is artfully filled with pennants, programs, books and treasured bobble heads.

"He has unselfishly shared his personal Giants items," said fellow school staffer Pamela Kicenski. "He takes great pride in the school and assisting students, as well as knowing many of their names. For us, he is more than the head custodian."

When the school opened in 2002, Rocha and then-librarian Louise Lincoln shared their passions. He was a huge Giants fan, of course, and she loved all things "The Wizard of Oz."

Lincoln asked Rocha to "bring in a few items" -- and a Giants tribute was born. The two shared the display case. When Lincoln retired, it became a full-blown baseball exhibit.

The display is ongoing, with Rocha alone adding items to it, like the beloved bobble heads. He said three of them are rare, dating back to the days of Gaylord Perry in 1961's Tacoma AAA team.


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His love of all things Giants goes beyond the display case. His real contributions, according to staff, are his discussions with students.

"I talk to kids about baseball, answer their questions," but Rocha is quick to note he "wasn't famous or in any record books."

While his official days as a Giant are over, his connection is still strong. When his first contract was drawn up 40 years ago, one of his requests was for lifetime home tickets.

"I did that for my dad. He was a (big) Giants fan."

And so, Rocha continues to cheer on the beloved team, rarely missing any home games. (He's only allowed to bring immediate family with the tickets.)

"I will not take off work if it's a day game," said Rocha, "unless it's a playoff or World Series."

Rocha enjoys talking baseball with the Dallas Ranch students.

"I like sharing it with them, they're really interested," adding that boys in particular are interested in being pro athletes. "But as a coach, I push them to go to college."

For 10 years he shared his talent with Deer Valley High as a pitching coach before taking a break in 2011. He's still teaching via private lessons and "coaching when I want."

Rocha was drafted into the pros when he was 17 after attending the now defunct Pacific High School.

"I have loved baseball since I was 4 years old," he said.

He said his time in the minors "was heaven. You know, I was just floating."

His favorite memory of being on those fields of dreams was during his first spring training and surrounded by the likes of Willie McCovey.

He struck out the legendary player with just three pitches. "I was 18 at that time, and really I just wanted an autograph.

"These were my heroes, and now I was (playing with them)," he said of other greats such as Bobby Bonds and Willie Mays.

After four decades away from professional baseball, Rocha said he is "more of a fan now than an ex-player," and his school office may be proof of that.

It is filled with posters and decorated with Giants memorabilia.

While he obviously still has a love of the game, he is just as happy taking care of the Dallas Ranch campus.

"When kids ask me why I'm a custodian now, I tell them it's because of them," Rocha said. "I'm a bit (obsessive compulsive) when it comes to cleanliness and I like children. It's the perfect job for me."

Reach Trine Gallegos at TrineG@att.net.