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Owlz to benefit from returning players, longtime coach

Published: Sunday, June 19 2011 9:47 p.m. MDT

Owlz' Manager Tom Kotchman hits grounders to his team during practice after Media day at UVU.  The Orem Owlz get going for a new season Saturday, June 18, 2011 at UVU. (Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News) Owlz' Manager Tom Kotchman hits grounders to his team during practice after Media day at UVU. The Orem Owlz get going for a new season Saturday, June 18, 2011 at UVU. (Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News)

OREM — In a baseball league where rosters change dramatically every year, and sometimes from week-to-week or even day-to-day, Tom Kotchman has been the one constant for the Orem Owlz.

Kotchman, the only manager the Utah County franchise has ever had, enters his 11th year as the team's skipper tonight when the Owlz host Casper in the 2011 Pioneer League regular-season opener. "We're just doing the same thing we've always done here," he said. "The lineups are changed just about every day, so you get everybody in there and see what they can and can't do, and I just watch and observe. It's really nothing different, just the names are different. It's what we always do.

"I still enjoy it, and if I didn't I wouldn't be doing it."

This season, Kotchman and the Owlz will benefit from having at least eight returnees from last year's team, including seven members of the pitching staff, that reached the Pioneer League playoffs before falling to Ogden in the opening round.

Owlz' Manager Tom Kotchman hits grounders to his team during practice after Media day at UVU.  The Orem Owlz get going for a new season Saturday, June 18, 2011 at UVU. (Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News) Owlz' Manager Tom Kotchman hits grounders to his team during practice after Media day at UVU. The Orem Owlz get going for a new season Saturday, June 18, 2011 at UVU. (Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News)

"Selfishly, it's always good for the manager to have some guys returning, because they can guide the first-year guys to where they're supposed to be, answer questions, and tell them what to do and what not to do," he said. "So it's always good to have a few guys back.

"And when it comes time to move some guys up, they'll probably be the guys to move because they know what's going on.

"My biggest concern last year and our Achilles heel was our catching. I think, hopefully, that's been addressed this year," Kotchman said. "It doesn't matter how good your pitching is, you've got to have catchers to catch 'em. And I think that was addressed — we'll see."

The Orem Owlz get going for a new season Saturday, June 18, 2011 at UVU. (Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News) The Orem Owlz get going for a new season Saturday, June 18, 2011 at UVU. (Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News)

The Owlz have won four Pioneer League championships in their first 10 years of existence. Leading the way this year will be third baseman Kaleb Cowart, a former Gatorade High School Player of the Year and a first-round draft choice of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

"Basically, what you are at this level, you play the hand you're dealt every year, and some hands are better than others," Kotchman said. "We'll find out what kind of hand we've got.

"Our job is to help get them on their road to the big leagues. ... Play and perform and if you're lucky enough to stay healthy, you've got a chance to move up."

Orem Owlz

Established: 2001 (as Provo Angels)

Home field: Brent Brown Ballpark (capacity 5,000) on the campus of Utah Valley University

The Orem Owlz get going for a new season Saturday, June 18, 2011 at UVU. (Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News) The Orem Owlz get going for a new season Saturday, June 18, 2011 at UVU. (Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News)

Manager: Tom Kotchman (11th season)

Pioneer League championships: 4 (2004, 2005, 2007, 2009)

Last year: Lost in first round of playoffs to Ogden

2011 season-opener: Tonight vs. Casper

Email: rhollis@desnews.com

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