Kotchman was a surprising contributor to the Rays' success in 2011 that led to the team’s third 90-win season and postseason berth in four years. He was originally only signed to a minor league deal with a spring training invite.
All he did was make the most out of opportunities as they presented themselves.
After Manny Ramirez’s impromptu retirement in April, the Rays chose to bring up Kotchman from the minor leagues when most of the fan base was salivating for outfielder Desmond Jennings. The St. Petersburg native would go on to win the hearts and minds of the fans with his career-best season. There was even a recurring twitter trend “#MagicOfKotch” dedicated to his at-bats.
He finished the 2011 season with a .306 AVG, .378 OBP and .422 SLG. His batting average led the team and was the 15th-highest in all of baseball. However, his lack of power production with only 10 home runs and 24 doubles left the team seeking more offensively from the first base position, where they ultimately brought back Carlos Pena.
Even though offensively the Rays are likely to be better with Pena, there will still be a void in the hearts of Rays fans without Kotchman.
Jamal Wilburg is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report.