SEATTLE -- Frank Thomas, a bear of a man, spotted Jason Kendall through the champagne mist of the visitors' clubhouse and wrapped his mammoth arms around him, lifting him off the ground. "First time, baby," he screamed. "Yeah." Thomas knew. Everyone knew. After 11 seasons in the game, Kendall was a first-timer. After nine seasons playing with three teams, Mark Kotsay also was a first-timer. Despite significant contributions to their teams every season, those two players had been unlucky enough never to play in the postseason.
That changed Tuesday when the A's beat the Mariners, 12-3, to claim the American League West Division title. To a man, their teammates stressed how happy they were for Kendall and Kotsay to finally enjoy the fruits of their sport. "We've been on both sides of it. We've been 30 games out in August. It's not fun," said Kendall, who started his 36th straight game at catcher Tuesday, second-longest streak in A's history. "This is a great reward, but we still have a lot of work to do." Kendall, 32, labored for nine seasons with Pittsburgh (1996-2004). He struggled through a losing season every year with the Pirates. The closest he came to the postseason -- and it wasn't that close -- was 1997, when the Pirates were 79-82 for second place in the NL Central. They finished five games behind. "Jason has played in 1,500 games, and I've played in 1,200 games, so after all that time it's just incredible that we get to see what it's like to celebrate," said Kotsay through the indiscriminate squirts and spurts of sparkling wine. As the A's charged the field to celebrate the final out, Kotsay said Kendall was the first player he found. "I just told him, 'We did it, we did it' over and over. It's a great feeling. Kendall added, "I love him like a brother. I'll just leave it at that." Kotsay, 30, had his first taste of the big leagues with Florida in 1997, the year the Marlins won the World Series. But Kotsay played only 14 games that season and was not on the playoff roster. He was traded to San Diego in 2001, missing out on the Marlins' second world title in 2003. The Padres finished last in three of his four seasons and fourth in the other one. Kotsay came to Oakland in a trade with the Padres before the 2004 season. The year after he was traded, the Padres won the 2005 NL West title. The A's finished just a game behind the Angels in 2004 and seven behind a year ago. "It's been a long time coming for me and Kotsay, but this is what it's all about," Kendall added. "Once you get here they say it's always fun. We'll see what's next."
Bob Sherwin is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.