Anderson, Kotchman more than just teammates

They would become friends one day.

They just didn't know it at the time. Not when Casey Kotchman was a 7-year-old batboy and Garret Anderson was a 17-year-old minor-leaguer.

The year was 1990. Anderson, in his first pro season, was assigned to Boise, Idaho, to play for the Hawks, the short-season Class A affiliate of the California Angels. His manager was Tom Kotchman, Casey's father.

"I just kind of hung around a lot," Kotchman said. "I would take batting practice with the guys and take road trips. ... I can vaguely remember him as a player."

"I don't remember [Kotchman being an annoying kid]," Anderson said. "I'm sure he wasn't, knowing his father."

The year was 2004. Kotchman had grown into a major-league player himself. When he was called up to the Angels, there was one familiar face. Anderson was already in his 11th season with the team.

"When I got called up, I saw how he went about his business on a day-to-day basis," Kotchman said. "And I found out what kind of person he was."

The year is 2009. Anderson and Kotchman are now members of the Braves, with lockers right next to one another. Kotchman was asked on a team survey: "Who is your best friend in baseball?" The answer was easy: Anderson. That's how far they have come in 19 years.

Anderson signed with the Braves as a free agent in February, after 15 seasons in the American League. When he arrived, there was one really familiar face. Kotchman was starting his second season with the Braves after coming over in the Mark Texeira trade last July.

"You spend so much time together and you get to know someone," Anderson said. "Through spring training, having things in common, he asked me a lot of things about hitting when he was younger. It developed from there."

Sure, they play golf and they go out to eat. But a friendship in baseball is forged at the stadium. It is there that Kotchman is still playing the youngster, looking up to his older counterpart.

"I try to stay out of his way for the most part," Kotchman said. "I tried not to bother him as a rookie. Even now, I try to keep my mouth shut and stay out of the way. I just watch everybody, see how everybody goes about business. Just the knowledge he's accumulated over the years and his cool, calm and collected demeanor.

"I'm picking his brain and trying to acquire as much as I can."

Anderson is beginning to play like the three-time All-Star he was with the Angels. He was hampered by a calf injury in spring training and a quad injury the first week of the season, but he has since had a seven-game hitting streak and lifted his batting average to .253 — through Saturday.

Though cooled of late, Kotchman had begun to heat up at the plate. Since April 25, he is hitting .288 (26-for-90).

So, is that knowledge starting to rub off with the proximity of their lockers?

"He's got a lot to offer upstairs," Kotchman said. "It's a breath of fresh air to see someone who has accumulated all the accolades that he has on the field, to see what he stands for off the field, with his family. That means more than anything on the field.

"But I'll move if he wants me to."