Owlz manager Tom Kotchman
For years, it’s been as guaranteed as Christmas arriving on December 25, Halloween on October 31 and your taxes due on April 15.
Angels minor league manager Tom Kotchman has gone to the post-season every year since arriving in Utah to manage the Rookie-A Provo Angels in 2001. The franchise moved six miles west to Orem for the 2005 season. In nine years, he’s gone to the championship round seven times, and won the pennant four times.
Each team’s personality was different, of course. Some teams started hot out the gate and clinched a post-season appearance by winning their division’s first-half title. The Pioneer League has a 76-game schedule, divided into two 38-game halves, so each title race is more of a sprint than a marathon. Other teams played poorly in the first half, then roared to life down the stretch in the second half.
Regardless of how they got to the post-season, Kotchman’s teams inevitably are an unstoppable force by season’s end. He evaluates the individual talents he receives in late June, breaks down their individuality and remolds them into a team that understands it can win only if everyone plays for the shared goal of a title. It doesn’t matter if it’s a prospect-laden team, or one whose names will be lost to the obscurity of minor league history. Kotch figures out who can do what, and puts them into a role where they have the best opportunity to succeed and contribute to the common goal of winning.
This year’s edition looked like it might break Kotchman’s post-season streak. They finished the first half at 19-19, four games behind rival Ogden in the South Division.
They started the second half by losing four of six, capped by a disheartening 8-6 loss in 12 innings at home to Idaho Falls after rallying from an early 5-0 deficit.
But after that, they won four in a row, and have now won seven of nine, to move within 1 1/2 games of Ogden for first place.
Should the Raptors win the second-half title too, the South Division team with the second-best overall record would go to the post-season. At 28-25, the Owlz have a four-game lead over Casper for that wild card.
The Owlz have 22 games left on the schedule, plus a rainout against Casper on August 4 that will probably be made up when the Ghosts return to Orem September 1-2.
Tom Kotchman doesn’t have his team at full-speed just yet, but given their recent performances it looks like they’re about to shift into high gear. Just as they always do.