Extra-special Mother's Day for Kotchman

Extra-special Mother's Day for Kotchman

ATLANTA -- The evening of Aug. 19, 2008, was supposed to be like so many of the others the Kotchman family had experienced. Tom Kotchman was prepping the Orem Owlz for a game in Missoula, Mont., and his son, Casey, was getting ready for his first taste of the Braves-Mets rivalry at Shea Stadium.

Back at the family's Florida residence, Sue Kotchman had little reason to be overly concerned about her husband, who was wrapping up his 30th consecutive season as a Minor League manager, or her son, who was adapting to the trade that ended his days as an Angel and made him the Braves' newest first baseman.

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As she prepared for bed that evening, Sue's thoughts rested on her two children and the many others who would soon greet her when she continued her duties as the principal at Madeira Beach Elementary School, located in the St. Petersburg, Fla., area.

Within the next couple of hours, the Kotchman family would encounter an extended stretch during which they would have nothing but grave concerns about Sue, who collapsed before making her way to bed.

After returning to his Manhattan hotel that evening, Casey received word that his mother had suffered what initially appeared to be a brain aneurysm. Before boarding a chartered flight back to Florida, he alerted his father, who would immediately make travel arrangements that would force him to fly through Denver before returning to the Tampa-St. Petersburg area.

"When I got to Denver, I called Casey just to see if she was still alive," Tom said. "When I got [to Florida], she had a 33 percent chance of living. When the surgeon tells you that ... and then it was hit and miss for the first three or four days."

More than eight months removed from the most trying ordeal of their lives, the Kotchman family is preparing to celebrate a Mother's Day that will prove to be every bit as emotional as the one in 2004, when Casey made his Major League debut for the Angels.

Having battled through an ailment that medical science primarily never cures, Sue spent portions of the past two weeks watching her children play the games that they love.

"As a mom, she's just happy that I'm happy doing what I love to do," Casey said.

After spending some time with her 22-year-old daughter Christal, who is concluding her senior season with the College of Charleston's softball team, Sue made her way to Turner Field on Monday night to watch her son play in person for the first time since encountering the brain ailment that nearly took her life.

"As a mom, you want your kids to be happy," Sue said. "They've worked so hard all of those years to get where they are. You want them to do what they want to do. What mother wouldn't? And, God forbid, had I died, I would still want them to know in their hearts that I would still want to them to fulfill their dreams and take advantage of the talents that they've been given."

Still encountering some fatigue, Sue hasn't yet been able to able to resume her professional duties as an educator. But by overcoming great odds, she's proudly been able to continue displaying the same parental affection that her children have experienced throughout their lives.

"We don't take anything for granted anymore," said Tom, who accompanied his wife to Turner Field this week. "Not that we did. But we sure don't now."

When Angels pitcher Nick Adenhart died in a car accident last month, Casey spoke about his former teammate while delivering a message that was partially created from the experience he encountered with his own mother last year.

"It's another reminder that every breath is a gift from God," Casey said. "That's not a cliché. It's the truth."

While Sue spent the early portion of a 15-day stay in a neuro intensive care unit, doctors believed that the hemorrhaging of her brain was caused by an aneurysm. Later they concluded that she was one of the few who have survived a subarachnoid hemorrhage without any debilitating complications.

Doctors explained that in many instances, individuals struck with this ailment arrive at the hospital either dead or in need of a surgical procedure to stop the bleeding on the brain. Miraculously for Mrs. Kotchman, the bleeding stopped in time for medical personnel to provide her the necessary assistance to stay alive.

"I believe in miracles," Sue said. "I just know that God just stopped it. That's my firm conviction. Nobody can tell me anything different. Doctors don't have anything medical to cure it. It just stopped.

"I think my doctor said less than one percent might ever stop on their own. Usually you die, you don't even make it to the hospital. I think there must be more for me to do in this world."

As she started to regain her health during the early days of September, Sue immediately told Casey that it was time for him to return to the Braves.

While still recovering over the next few weeks, she would watch his games on television from the comforts of her own living room.

"It makes a mother so proud to see your kids living their dreams," Sue said. "You're happy that they're happy."

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