Tom Kotchman is the only manager the Orem Owlz have ever had. Now in his 11th season with the Pioneer League club, his teams have won four league championships in his first 10 seasons there. Kotchman, 56, has been a manager in the L.A. Angels' organization for 28 years, recently managed in his 3,000th career game, and has more wins than any other active minor league manager.
Q: This is your 11th season as the Owlz manager. what keeps you coming back to Orem every year?
A: "The hardest part for me is the scouting because of the travel. This is actually easy in the aspect that your wife and your family knows exactly where you're at because you have a schedule. When you're scouting, you don't have a schedule. It changes from minute to minute depending on weather and pitching and everything else. ... When it gets to a point where I can't do it, I'll let 'em know. It is tiring, but at least when you get on the bus rides and stuff, I can find a way to sleep on the bus. When you're driving to scout, you can't go to sleep because if you do, you're dead. ... I still enjoy (managing), if I didn't I wouldn't be doing it."
Q: What made you decide to become a minor league manager?
A: "The reason I'm doing this is, in 1989, it was my last year playing in Triple-A, and I saw my wife and kids three weeks in seven months. My son was 6, my daughter was 3, and you really change a lot in seven months. When that hits you, you just go that was enough, being away that long. This way, I'm really only gone for 2 1/2 months, and I can still see him (his son Casey, who plays for the Tampa Bay Rays) on TV and the family can still come out for a little bit. You've got a much better chance of being a better father being home than you do being away all the time. I just didn't want to sacrifice that. If you made it to the big leagues, fine, if not, it really didn't bother me. And it's the best decision I've ever made because I got to be at home and be a father and see 'em grow up."
Q: Now that your kids are grown up, does it get a little easier being away from your family?
A: "It is, but like any other parent, you never stop being a parent. Casey just turned 28 and he's playing with Tampa; my daughter got her degree out of the College of Charleston, so she's working at home, and the wife is recovered from her brain hemorrhage and she had to retire from being a principal, but she's stabile enough to do normal things. She's sorta like a one- or two-inning pitcher — she tires quick. That's one of the side affects from her brain hemorrhage is fatigue. But it definitely beats the alternative of when we first got to the hospital. ... As far as the family's concerned, it's all good. At least my wife doesn't have to fly to Seattle to see (Casey) play or fly to New York unless she wants to, and she'll fly to New York because that's where she's from. She'll want to go to Yankee Stadium — great. She's got cart blanche; she can do whatever she wants. So when she wants to come out here, she can come out here. She's got my schedule on the board so whenever she fits it in, I'm sure I'll know when she wants to come out."
Q: How long does it take you and your team to figure out their strengths and weaknesses?
A: "I don't know if you ever figure it out. But I would say when it gets near the end of the first half, you sort of got an idea, and that's why a lot of times our clubs do a little bit better the second half because they have it figured out a little bit more and they know what to expect, so usually our teams do better in the second half. But it'd always be nice to win the first half and get it over with, but that's getting way, way ahead of ourselves."
Q: How do you like Utah and what do you dislike about the travel in the Pioneer League?
A: "It's a shame. It's just like Boise, Idaho. I was there for 10 years and basically all I knew was where the hotel was and where the ballpark was. And it's a beautiful place. This place is a beautiful place, too. ... It's like a second place away from home. I've got a good place to stay at the Marriott. That's important because the most important thing for a manager or the players is their sleep. And you stay in enough Motel Zeroes on the road you don't need to be staying in a Motel Zero here. You need a light on, you need a mint on the pillow, and hopefully the bed's made and the room's locked. Some of these places over the years past, boy, I said 'whew, whew-ooh.' But they have gotten better. For all the teams in this league, it has gotten better as far as the facilities and the accommodations. Some of those places, I wouldn't have my dog in there — and I like my dog — but that has gotten better."