A Generation of Baseball

Major Leaguer Casey Kotchman and his dad, a long-time minor league manager and scout, visited the Hall of Fame Tuesday

October 18, 2011

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. – Tom Kotchman has spent 35 years in the minor leagues as a player, coach and scout. His son Casey made his major league debut at age 21 and has spent 8 seasons in the big leagues – hitting .306 for the Tampa Bay Rays in 2011.

Together, they are an impressive combination of baseball history.

Fresh of his playoff run with the Rays and his father’s  33rd year as a manager, the pair made the ultimate road trip to the home of baseball and visited the Baseball Hall of Fame on Tuesday.

“It was his idea,” Casey said of his father. “He wanted to go and I just said OK – but I’m glad he did.”

They got to check out their files in the library, see some baseball photos from the collection and hold a Ted Williams bat in the archive.

Tom is the winningest active manager in the minor leagues and has been with the Angels organization since 1984, but spent time with Detroit and Boston early in his managerial career. In 1982-83, Tom managed in Winter Haven and spent Spring Training with his locker next to the great Hall of Famer Williams.

The pair got to see artifacts from other Hall of Famers including a Babe Ruth jersey, a cap from Roberto Clemente and the spikes Tony Gwynn wore when he recorded his 3,000th hit.

“What size shoe did he wear?” Casey asked. “Those look pretty comfortable, too.”

Casey was apart of history in his own way this past season when he played first base at Yankee Stadium on July 9, 2011 when Derek Jeter clubbed a home run for his 3,000th hit.

“You don’t expect him to hit a homer – maybe a base hit,” said Casey. “If he had a base hit it would be cool because I’d be the first guy to congratulate him – but when he did that and came flying by me all I could do was tip my cap.”

“We got a nice picture of that though,” said his dad.

Casey was also a big part of the Rays historic run at the postseason, earning a berth on the last day of the regular season when Evan Longoria homered against the New York Yankees to walk-off with the win. Casey went 2-for-5 in the game and scored a run in the game that gave the Rays the Wild Card over the Boston Red Sox.

“I heard the Hall of Fame got Longo’s bat,” said Casey. “It was crazy how fast all that happened. It was amazing.”

A close-knit family, Tom was managing at the Triple-A level, on the verge of a major league coaching job in 1987, when he decided he wasn’t getting to spend enough time with Casey, then age 6 – and his daughter Christal, then 3.

He stepped down after three seasons, became a scout in his native Florida and now manages the rookie league team from June through August. His presence sure paid off as Casey has seen great success in baseball and Christal played softball at the College of Charleston.

As a kid, Tom was a big fan of Mickey Mantle and got to hold the ball Mantle hit for his 52nd home run in 1956 and signed with the accomplishment and date.

“That’s your guy,” said Casey.

“Look at how clear his autograph is – you don’t see anything like that today, you can’t even read a guy’s name,” said Tom.

“My mom is a school teacher so if she sees a ball that I have signed and you can’t read it, she still gives me a hard time,” said Casey with a laugh.

Seeing artifacts like rules of a baseball club from 1859 and a minor league contract from Christy Mathewson all the way through bats from Garrett Anderson and Ichiro Suzuki – guys that Casey has played with and is friends with – made it a special trip for the father and son.

“Most of the young guys don’t understand the importance of the history of the game and how great this place is – that is why it I wanted to make the trip and when we had a few days I said to Casey, ‘Let’s go!’”

Samantha Carr is the manager of web and digital media for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum