Kotchman excited as he joins Braves
Promising first baseman looking forward to playing for Cox
ATLANTA -- Nobody would have been surprised if Casey Kotchman had arrived at Turner Field with a sense of disappointment. Within a span of 24 hours, he went from being a member of the team with the best record in the Majors to a team that's already looking ahead to next year.
But as he donned a Braves uniform for the first time, the soft-spoken Kotchman showed no signs that he was disappointed about the fact that the Angels used him to acquire Mark Teixeira on Tuesday.
Instead, Kotchman seemed more excited about the opportunities to be closer to his native Florida home and play for Braves manager Bobby Cox.
"I'm excited about coming back to the East Coast and being part of this franchise," said the 25-year-old Kotchman, who had been with the Angels organization since they selected him with the 13th overall selection in the 2001 First-Year Player Draft.
Kotchman will attempt to become the latest first baseman from the Tampa, Fla., area to find success after being acquired by the Braves in a July trade. But unfortunately, it doesn't appear he'll have the opportunity to produce the dramatic turnaround the Braves made after acquiring Fred McGriff in 1993.
Still even though it appears postseason hopes in Atlanta are dead, Kotchman will have the chance to realize the same pleasurable experiences that were afforded McGriff when he had the opportunity to play for Cox.
Having gotten to know Kotchman because they are both from the Tampa area, McGriff called the new Braves first baseman on Tuesday night to tell him how much he'll enjoy having Cox as his manager.
"When Freddie speaks, it carries a lot of weight," Kotchman said.
While speaking with his good friend and former Braves teammate Mark Lemke on Wednesday, McGriff said that the Braves acquired a good player and person.
"He likes him a lot," Lemke said. "He said he's a good kid and a hard worker."
When Kotchman arrived at Turner Field on Wednesday afternoon, he was greeted by Cox, who once again gave a newcomer the sense that he was immediately part of the Braves family.
"I just feel privileged to have the opportunity to play here," Kotchman said.
When Braves general manager Frank Wren completed this trade, it might have marked the first time he's acquired a player whom he's known for approximately 20 years. Through his friendship with Casey's father, Tom, Wren first met his new first baseman about two decades ago.
The elder Kotchman has been with the Angels organization for the past 26 years and is currently serving as the manager for their short-season club in Orem, Utah. Upon learning that his son was leaving the organization that has employed him for nearly three full decades, he reacted with excitement.
"You're happy when your son is happy," Casey Kotchman said.
Kotchman, who hit .287 with a .327 on-base percentage for the Angels this year, arrives in Atlanta in the midst of a power surge. Entering Wednesday, he had collected three of his career-high 12 homers during the course of his previous four games.
At this stage of his career, Kotchman is considered a line-drive hitter who has the potential to improve his power. He never hit more than 10 homers in a season during his Minor League career.
"You always can improve," Kotchman said. "I'm trying to improve and get better. I'm just looking to contribute any way that I can."
When asked if he felt any pressure regarding the fact that he was replacing a more powerful Teixeira, Kotchman didn't seem fazed. But maybe this shouldn't have come as a surprise.
This is the same guy who didn't seem to be the least bit affected by the fact that over the previous 24 hours, he'd gone from arguably the best team in the Majors to one that has battled nothing but frustration this year.
"I'm just going to make the most of the present," Kotchman said. "That's how I've been raised. I'm just going to pour everything into the present and have no regrets in the future."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.