Rowand, Kotsay reflect on college years

Rowand, Kotsay reflect on college years

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- Mark Kotsay, though a college teammate and mentor of sorts to fellow outfielder Aaron Rowand, insists that he's not responsible for Rowand's propensity to run into outfield walls.

The recently retired Kotsay joined his former Cal State Fullerton teammate at this weekend's Hall of Fame Classic, where they helped lead Friday's Youth Skills Clinic before participating Saturday in the sixth annual Hall of Fame Classic.

"He was just a freshman when I was a junior, so some of us older guys tried to mentor him a little bit," Kotsay said. "I didn't teach him to run into so many walls though -- he just took that upon himself."

Long before making the now-infamous catch that left his nose bloodied and broken from crashing into the wall back in 2006, Rowand had already run into a cinder-block wall during his college career. While Rowand may not have learned the art of the collisions from Kotsay, there were a number of more useful traits he did pick up from his slightly older teammate.

"For me, coming out of high school, I was wet behind the ears and wide-eyed, just trying to learn from him. Being a junior, he was definitely like a mentor to me as a younger kid," Rowand said. "Neither one of us even knew whether we were going to make the Major Leagues or not -- forget about coming to Cooperstown together and hanging out with some of the greatest players to ever play the game."

Yet there they were Saturday, playing an exhibition game opposite one another, with Rowand's club being managed by Hall of Famer Phil Niekro and Kotsay playing under the leadership of fellow Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith.

"Aaron was a good player at Fullerton, and we both hoped we would have a future in baseball, but I never would have envisioned anything like this," Kotsay said. "We were fortunate enough to have long big league careers and now to be here at Cooperstown, of all places, playing a game like this one today, it's definitely a special moment.

"It's also pretty cool that we get to share it and experience it together."

Paul Casella is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @paul_casella. Marty Noble is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.