To have watched Mark Kotsay play baseball was to see the physical embodiment of hustle on the field, every day. In 17 Major League seasons, Kotsay posted a cumulative 21.5 WAR for his efforts, even earning some AL MVP considerations for a strong 2004 season with the A's.
Today, Kotsay (who will be the A's Major League quality control coach in 2018) celebrates his 42nd birthday, so it's as good a time as any to revisit arguably the finest example of his all-or-nothing hustle and determination. Injuries limited him to just 129 games for the 2006 AL West-winning A's, but he had plenty in the tank during Game 2 of the ALDS against the Twins in Minnesota.
With the game tied at two in the top of the seventh, Kotsay laced a line drive toward Torii Hunter in center field. Hunter dove but came up short -- and the ball began rolling ... and rolling ... all the way to the wall. With catcher/fellow hustle advocate Jason Kendall leading the way, Kotsay put on the afterburners and soared around the bases for a clutch go-ahead two-run inside-the-park homer. He celebrated in kind after crashing into home plate:
That's some well-earned jubilation, capitalizing on a great opportunity in what proved to be the game-changing moment of the afternoon. The A's won the game, 5-2, and then wrapped up the series in Game 3 back in Oakland two days later.
The one-two punch of Kendall and Kotsay put on a hustle clinic throughout their time with the A's. Here's Kendall doing his thing in 2005, winning a game by scurrying home after Francisco Rodriguez dropped the ball:
Remember, kids: Always hustle. Always.