He's not a first ballot Cooperstown talent like Mariano Rivera, and he's not a five-time All-Star like Todd Helton, but he's had a solid major league career. With two games to go in the season, he has a career average of .276 with 1,784 hits and 127 homers. More than that, he's been filling the "veteran clubhouse leader" role in his last few seasons. While he was a pretty productive guy off the bench last year, he has seriously struggled, with one homer and a batting average below the Mendoza line.
Having recently joined twitter (MarcusSDTX, if you feel inclined to follow), its been a little disheartening to see so much criticism of him by the fans. Can't say that it's not accurate, but still a little more mean-spirited than is really necessary. Such is the internet, I suppose.
Anyways, Kotsay's last home appearance was on Friday, and manager Bud Black gave him a rare start. Before the game, he was presented with a custom made surfboard by Trevor Hoffman and a few other former Padres. When the game started, they had Kotsay lead them out onto the field, but when he got to left field, he realized that the rest of the team had stayed in the dugout, giving him the whole field to himself. Goose bump inducing standing ovation. Later in the game, he had the chance to play the hero, as he batted in the 8th with the go ahead run in scoring position, but he struck out on three pitches, swinging and missing at each one.
Asked later about striking out in his final home at bat, Kotsay said
"Even striking out, I went down swinging. I've always been told you can't get off the island unless you swing; I just couldn't make contact. To win, collectively as a group though, that's what I love about baseball."
A classy guy as always.
Here is a page right out of my Miscellaneous Padres binder, showing all nine of the Kotsay cards that it holds. Coincidentally, they're all on the same page, but if I add any more Casey Kelly, Terry Kennedy, or Ryan Klesko cards, it might push these apart (the MP binder is organized alphabetically). If I had to choose my favorite out of these nine, I'd have to go with the Upper Deck First Pitch card at the top row in the middle.
I'd be surprised if Kotsay made the 2013 Topps Update checklist, and if he doesn't, this will be his "sunset" card, from last year's Update set. Can't say that it's great, but not too shabby.
Here's the back, showing the stats from his the first 15 years of his career. Last year at Spring Training, just after the national anthem, he stopped by to sign autographs and chat up a few of the fans in the front row. One of the fans had a book that was divided up by team names (e.g. all the Braves signed in a section, all the Red Sox signed in the same section, etc.), and when Kots saw that, he said that he'd be able to sign in a few different places. He went on to joke with the fans, talking about what places he liked in and other that weren't so great. I guess it's not as funny sounding as I'm making it out to be, but the fans were laughing and he was being real with them. Something I'll remember for a while.
Today, being game 162 of the season, Kotsay has got the start in right field, playing his last game as a big leaguer. It's not the most important game on the docket (though it will decide third place in the NL West), but it certainly will for Kots. Best of luck to you, Mark! Thanks for everything.