When Travis Ishikawa first met the woman who turned out to be his future wife, she apparently didn't notice that he looked like Rocky Balboa after going 15 rounds with Apollo Creed.
"She says she doesn't remember me having a swollen face," Ishikawa said. "My cheek was all swollen and she says she doesn't remember any of that."
It is true, then, that love must be blind, because Ishikawa's face was about twice its usual size after he got in the face with a fastball in the first game he played with the Giants' Class A affiliate in San Jose, in 2004.
Ishikawa started that season with San Francisco's low-A team in Hagerstown, Maryland, hit well, and was called up to San Jose.
"I flew cross-country all day," Ishikawa recalled. "I got into the San Jose airport around 2:30 or 3, just in time to go straight to the field for batting practice."
Because the club had several players injured, Ishikawa was inserted into the lineup that night. The game was unremarkable until Ishikawa's final at-bat, when he felt the need to prove himself against a left-handed reliever.
"My big problem was pulling out early against lefties,"" he noted. "I wanted to try to keep that front side in and try to take that ball the other way."
So Travis stood his ground as the opposing southpaw unwound.
"It was a pitch that kind of started at me and I was telling myself to stay in for the curve ball. When I realized it was a fastball, it was too late. I couldn't get out of the way."
Ishikawa remembers the pitch coming at his face and hitting him, knocking him into the dirt.
"I kinda realized where I was and I felt a bunch of broken pieces in my mouth and my first thought was, my gosh, I just blew out all of my teeth. Luckily, it was a cough drop. I had been battling a cold and I thought thank goodness it was that."
The San Jose trainer and manager rushed out to the batter's box, where a valiant Ishikawa insisted on staying in the game.
"I knew we were hurting for players," Ishikawa said. "I told them, 'we've got an inning left. I'll get treatment afterwards. I can still play.'"
But while his brave mouth said he could, his battered mug told a different story.
"At the time, you've got your adrenaline going and don't feel it as much and because it was a head thing, they decided to take me out. I was glad they did because once the adrenaline died out I was hurting pretty bad."
Ishikawa was checked out by the team's medical staff and was held out of action for the next day as a precaution. But the trainer insisted he go to the dentist to make sure his teeth were all intact.
"I walked into the office and saw the assistant there was pretty cute," said the slugger. "I was definitely attracted to her."
But the man who was courageous enough to stay in the box with a blazing fastball headed for his chin, couldn't get up the nerve to break the ice.
"I was way too scared to talk to her then. It wasn't until I went back for my two-week checkup that I started talking to her."
The assistant came to the game that night and watched with great interest as Ishikawa scored some major "man points" by hitting a home run with her looking on. But she left before the game was over and Ishikawa was disappointed that he didn't get a chance to talk with her after the contest.
But the disappointment lifted soon enough.
"The next morning the trainer called me and woke me up," he said. "She didn't have my number but she had the trainer's number, since she worked with the team."
"She said she wanted me to call her so she could congratulate me on my home run. So the trainer gave me her number, I called and she asked if I had ever seen San Jose and said 'I can show you around.' So she asked me out on our first date. ...
"... And we've been together ever since."
Travis and Rochelle married shortly thereafter. She quit her job at the dental office and is now a full-time mom looking after the couple's three children. He still can't believe she fell for him after what he felt was a dubious first impression.
"Not only was my face swollen the first time I went to her office,," Ishikawa said. "but the airlines had actually lost my luggage the day before. My baseball stuff made it but my personal bag didn't make it, so, when I went in there, I was wearing the same shirt I had worn the day before and I had flown all day in it."
"And from sliding I had cuts on my elbows and blood on my shirt a little bit. But she says she doesn't remember any of that. She found me attractive, I found her attractive and it worked out."
Ishikawa says his children, ages 10, 3 and 1, haven't been told how mom and dad first met.
"I don't think they really care yet," he said. "They might when they get older. It's a good story, that's for sure. I wouldn't want it any other way."