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Monday, January 24, 2022

Hire 20 years in the making: How Mark Coates became the Oakland A’s newest manager

Donning a crisp white jersey and A’s hat at another Zoom press conference, Mark Coates was introduced on Tuesday as the A’s newest manager.

The sudden departure of longtime manager Bob Melvin to manage the San Diego Padres a salve on the burn before this off-season. A certainty in the midst of one of the most uncertain A’s off-seasons this decade.

What the A’s roster might look like in 2022 is still a complete mystery, thanks to both Major League Baseball’s lockout and whispers that Oakland’s ownership could mandate budget cuts for the already bare-bones payroll. But Kotse’s fare brings some light to the darkened room.

It also brings full circle of Kotse. Despite less than half of his 24 years in baseball in Oakland, Kotse always considered the A’s organization home.

Since Billy Bean flipped Terrence Long and Ramon Hernandez to the Padres for him in 2004, Kotse has become a staple of the organization. First building a fandom with his rifle arm at Center Field, his run home inside the park at the 2006 ALCS, then returning home nine years later with the A from 2015 on various coaching jobs. Pogoing around MLB between those years, Kotse always remained close with Bean, David Forst, and the rest of the A’s front office mainstays.

Interviewed to be the A’s 31st manager in franchise history, the 46-year-old could lean on an acquaintance who was seeking to fill manager Melvin’s big shoes three times of the year. That he left the friendship at the door helped Kotse get a job.

“Mark didn’t take anything lightly in the interview,” Bean said. “He came as prepared as you can possibly be despite the fact that he has known David and I for over 20 years. It really impressed us.”

“It looks like it took a little over 18 years to build,” Forst said. “Most people would not guess that he spent only four years of his 17-year career with A because he has always identified so much with this organization.”

This was not Kotse’s first interview. Known for a keen coaching eye, preparedness and personal relationship with players, Kotse has been cycled through a number of managerial hire cycles. The Boston Red Sox, San Francisco Giants, Detroit Tigers, Pittsburgh Pirates and Houston Astros were among the teams that Coates interviewed over the years—no one stuck.

All those ‘no thanks’ from other clubs taught Kotse that even a familiar interview wouldn’t give him a leg up.

“I didn’t know how to take anything,” said Kotse. “Relationships are precious but they are not everything.”

A interviewed five others for the position, including A’s hitting coach Darren Busch and Marcus Jensen. Outside the organization, he interviewed Houston Astros bench coach Joe Espada, Boston Red Sox bench coach Will Venable, and Tampa Bay Rays bench coach Matt Quattraro.

“All five of them, we could have hired them all. They were all outstanding,” Bean said. “It made the decision very challenging. We had six players who could manage a big league team.

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Bean has been attracted to his new manager since 1996, when the Florida Marlins snatched him from under A’s nose in the first round of the MLB Draft as the ninth pick. With the 10th pick, the A picked Eric Chavez, a six-time Gold Glove winner who spent 12 seasons at Oakland.

“It all went well,” Bean said. “Eventually the obsession with Mark continued as a player as he made his way through the major leagues.”

Cotse joined Jeff Newman – the interim manager between Jackie Moore and Tony La Russa in 1986 – as the only manager in Oakland history to have had no previous managerial experience. But A’s reputation within the organization not only as a Billy Bean obsession, but as a respected coach, precedes him.

He has spent the last six seasons at the clubhouse, first as a bench coach in 2016, then as a quality control coach from 2018 to 2020 before moving to third base coach in 2021. Working with Melvin, Kotse learned about transparency and the value of cultivating the individual. Relationships with players within an organization that can be cut, especially in the name of cost-efficiency.

“She’s awesome,” Chad Pinder said last December. “With him playing for such a long time and not getting away from his playing days, he is a guy that everyone is attracted to.

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