SAN FRANCISCO – Mark Kotsay’s final at-bat as an active Major League player will go down as a strikeout, but it also was a deeply personal, emotion-filled finale courtesy of his friend and former teammate, Barry Zito.
The often-maligned Giants left-hander’s curtain call in a San Francisco uniform may have coincided with Kotsay’s MLB exit. For these former Oakland A’s teammates (2004-’06), the collision of their career paths on Sunday was almost poetic. Giants manager Bruce Bochy gets the save for helping orchestrate the moment.
Looking for an opportunity to give Zito a proper appreciative sendoff from the sellout crowd AT&T Park, Bochy directed Zito to the mound with two out in the eighth to face Kotsay, 37, the Padres outfielder who has announced he will retire after this season.
Two Zito curveballs set up a two-strike fastball. Kotsay swung and missed at the 84-mph "sneaky fastball," as Zito described it.
“If I had to strike out in my final at-bat, I’m glad it was against a former teammate whom I respect and love,” said Kotsay, who played 17 MLB seasons and appeared in 1,914 games with 1,784 hits. “I’m happy for Barry.
“We had a lot of fun together.”
Kotsay said he knew exactly who Bochy was bringing out of the bullpen when he made the eighth inning change from Heath Hembree.
“It was a great moment for both of us,” Kotsay said. “I texted him and told him that I’m glad it was him out there for my final at-bat.”
Zito responded to that message, and Kotsay read it aloud for the media:
"[Heck], man, that was narlier [sic] than the World Series. I love you my brother. I have so much respect for you. I love that it was us together out there. See you soon."