Former Major Leaguer and coach on emphasizing attitude and effort
By Greg Bach
Whenever Mark Kotsay took the field during his 17-year Major League career you could always count on a couple things happening:
Opposing players reluctant to try for extra bases because of his lethal left arm in the outfield.
And getting his best effort every inning, every game, all season long.
The latter is especially important to Kotsay, a father of three. It’s something he believes is crucial for young athletes – and their parents – to zero in on during their youth baseball seasons.
“That’s what I stress to my kids, it’s the attitude and effort in youth sports that I put a lot of emphasis on,” says Kotsay, a bench coach for the Oakland A’s and a former youth baseball coach. “Because the more we get caught up in ‘Is my son or daughter the best 9-, 10- or 11-year-old?’ the more that we are going to take away from their true joy and passion that is going to grow in their development process.”
We caught up with Kotsay, who shared his insights on connecting with kids, helping them excel in the outfield, and more:
MINIMIZE THE STEPS
“For me, I always stress getting the ball in as quickly as possible,” Kotsay says of one of the keys to being proficient in the outfield. “Obviously you have to make the catch but the least amount of steps that you can take in the outfield to get rid of the baseball that’s going to eliminate the progress of the runner and the amount of steps the runner gets.”
So when working with young players continually emphasize the importance of that ball getting back to the infield as quickly as possible to prevent opponents from piling up the runs.
“I always used to say that for every step I take in the outfield with the baseball in my hand or in my glove the baserunner is taking three steps and he’s getting that much closer to the base,” Kotsay says. “We talk to our guys here about cutting the baseball off, getting rid of it and getting it into the hands of the cutoff man is extremely important in holding baserunners from taking an extra base.”
DIAL UP THE ACCURACY
Young players naturally like to see how far they can throw the ball, but during practices a real premium should be placed on the accuracy of their throws.
“When you have kids playing catch I think utilizing a target and being precise with your throwing is even more important than just arm strength,” Kotsay says. “You can build arm strength, but I think once you get out to a point where you are playing long toss if you are putting a lot of air under the baseball you’re never going to throw the ball in a game that way. So, for me it’s playing catch from a distance and utilizing a long hop and being accurate with that.”
Kotsay’s years on the field were filled with big wins and great performances.
And a lot of awards for playing the game at a really high level.
But peeling back the curtain on his career it’s the friendships that were forged and the relationships that were cultivated that matter most to him.
“The relationships that I took away I value to this day as a 41-year-old,” Kotsay says. “We have a group of Little League kids that I played with that we still stay in contact with. And the coaches left an impact throughout my career, most importantly my father who was my coach until high school. Those are my greatest memories.”
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