Kotsay attributes success to father

Kotsay attributes success to father

ATLANTA -- Whenever Mark Kotsay watches replays of Kirk Gibson limping around the bases at the end of Game 1 of the 1988 World Series, he vividly remembers where he was and knows exactly what it immediately prompted him to do.

As the Dodgers were celebrating Gibson's walk-off blast against Hall of Fame reliever Dennis Eckersley and the A's, Kotsay called his father to share the moment with the man who had introduced him to the game of baseball and passion for Dodgers blue.

While raising his family in Southern California, Steve Kotsay taught Mark the value of hard work, how to respect authority and about many of the Dodgers greats that he'd followed all the way back to the days when they played in the Los Angeles Coliseum.

Still the strong father-son bond that still exists with the Kotsays extends far beyond the memories and privileges they've gained on the baseball diamond.

"The main things that I miss more than any of the sports-related stuff are the family activities we shared together," said the younger Kotsay. "I loved the days when we'd go fishing together in the High Sierra. The older he gets and the older that I get, the more I want to recreate those memories."

When Kotsay was traded to the Braves in January, his father looked forward to the opportunity to see his son get another chance to prove he'd overcome his troubling back woes.

While visiting Turner Field in April, Steve beamed with pride as he sat in the Turner Field dugout and watched his son prepare for a Sunday afternoon game. He told a reporter that he hadn't seen his son so healthy for at least three years.

Unfortunately, Kotsay's back began providing problems during the final week of May and it's still unknown when he might be able to return to action.

"Me not being able to play probably hurts him even more than it hurts me," Kotsay said, while explaining the Kotsay family television has displayed virtually every game he has played since making his Major League debut in 1997.

While reminiscing about his historic career at Cal State-Fullerton University, Kotsay can't remember many occasions when his parents weren't present for one of his games. Along the way, they saw plenty of success. Baseball America named Kotsay the college player of the decade for the 1990s, and he led the Titans to the 1995 College World Series.

As Kotsay realized all of his success and became a first-round selection by the Marlins in the 1996 First-Year Player Draft, he knew his father's strict discipline had helped carve his path.

"Whether it was playing basketball, baseball or bicycle riding, he wanted me to do it with all of my effort," Kotsay said. "If he sensed that I wasn't giving all of my effort, he let me know about it right away."

Now when the younger Kotsay finds himself disciplining any of his three children, he gains a greater appreciation for the strict upbringing his father provided.

When Steve Kotsay left for work, it wasn't like he was going down the street to an air conditioned office building. He spent approximately 20 years as a motorcycle cop in Watts, South Central and some of Los Angeles' other rough neighborhoods.

Whenever the elder Kotsay returned home from the graveyard shift at around 3 a.m., he'd come through the garage, enter Mark's bedroom and just put his hand on his son's cheek or shoulder.

"That always gave me a sense of security," Kotsay said. "It let me know that he was home and safe."

Whenever he gets the opportunity, Kotsay has attempted to give his father a taste of the Major League experience that he helped create. At least once a year, he brings his dad into the clubhouse and allows him to further realize the dreams they shared more than 20 years ago while watching the Dodgers have certainly come true.

"All those things that he's helped me do, I now get to share with him," Kotsay said.

Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.