Tom Kotchman has never shared in as much of his son's professional baseball experience as he probably deserves.
However, he might finally get that chance this summer. The Provo Angels manager and his son, Salt Lake Stingers first basemen Casey Kotchman, are stationed in the same general locale for really the first time since the 21-year-old Kotchman was drafted by the Anaheim Angels in the first round three years ago.
Casey Kotchman did spend a short time under his dad's tutelage in 2001, but played only one game in Provo and a few others on the road in getting only 22 at bats. He spent the next two seasons in Iowa and California while his dad traveled with the Provo team in the Pioneer League. Being only an hour's drive apart this summer should ease some of the loneliness of minor league life for both.
"It's just neat to have him around," Tom Kotchman said. "But I know one thing: He'll be buying the dinner this time, not me."
If there was ever a player groomed to be an Anaheim Angel, it was Casey Kotchman. His father has been a coach and scout for the Angels for 21 years basically for all of Casey's life. He grew up following his dad's minor league teams, serving as bat boy and hanging around a bunch of eventual big leaguers. He was scouted by his father and after being drafted out of Seminole High School in Florida, his father served as his agent in contract negotiations. But since signing that first contract, the two have gone their separate professional ways each spring.
Exactly how much they'll see each other now, even though their teams are in the same state, is uncertain. The schedule makers weren't kind to them. The Provo Angels don't play home games on Sundays, which leaves the elder Kotchman free to travel to Salt Lake to watch his son on those days. However, the Stingers are only at home for one of those Sundays. Still, the Angels do play some late-afternoon games and the two will take advantage of their free time during the day when both are at home.
"I think it's nice for anyone knowing you're not that far away," Tom Kotchman said. "And if he's able to come to some games, come in the locker room or sit on the bench, that would be even nicer."
Casey Kotchman echoed that sentiment, saying he'd enjoy it if his father were able to make a visit to Franklin Covey Field.
"I'm sure if he gets a chance he'll get on over here," he said.
So far, the career highlight for both was when Casey was called up last month from AA Arkansas for a brief stint with the parent club in Anaheim to fill in for the injured Darin Erstad. The surprising call came late at night, and Casey's first big league game was the next day at Tampa Bay only a few miles from the Kotchman family home.
Casey admits that he wasn't expecting that call.
"I was surprised," he said. "I didn't know what had happened (in Anaheim). It can take you off-guard a little bit."
Kotchman struggled with Anaheim, hitting just .218 in 28 games. But the experience was good.
"You get an opportunity to be around those guys; it's a privilege," he said. "You just try to get the most out of your stay there."
Said Tom Kotchman: "That whole thing was really neat."
The irony of Casey's call-up was that his short career has been hampered by freak injuries. But when Erstad went down, Casey was the only healthy first baseman in the system. When Erstad returned to the Anaheim lineup, it figured that Casey would return to the minors. The Kotchmans were just glad that the assignment was to Salt Lake, where the facilities are better and where it's one step closer to getting back to the majors.
"They know what kind of make-up he has and what his background is and that's a big part of it," Tom Kotchman said.
It also helps that Casey is already a bona fide minor-league hitter. In his first seven games as a Stinger (through Friday), he hit .409.And while the Kotchmans are glad they're nearby for the time being, they're both looking forward to the day when family summertime visits will take place in Southern California. The way Casey's progressing, that day is likely not far off.