PEORIA, Ariz. — It took 42 years, but Andy Bottin finally has a ring to symbolize a championship.
The Seattle Mariners’ longtime minor league coach and manager received his reward Thursday morning during a ceremony in the outfield at Field 3 of the Mariners’ spring training complex.
Bottin, who lives on Camano Island in the offseason, managed the rookie-level Peoria Mariners to the Arizona League championship last summer. It’s the first title he has won of any kind — as a player, coach or manager — since he was an 18-year-old outfielder for the New York Yankees’ Class A team in Johnson City, Tenn.
They won the Appalachian League championship in 1967.
“We got a mug,” Bottin said. “My roomie then was Ron Bloomberg, and I can’t tell you exactly what he said, but basically he thought we should wear them around our necks.”
Thursday’s ceremony provided an even greater reward — the rings to Bottin, his coaches and the players — because it represented a group of youngsters who came together last summer and won their version of the World Series. Bottin also was named the Arizona League manager of the year.
“I watched these kids come together as a group and as a family, and we stress that a lot,” Bottin said. “We weren’t even supposed to sniff it with that group of guys. How they came together and just played baseball, everything they did was as a team to help each other and accomplish what we did.”
Bottin, who begins his 16th year in the Mariners’ system, is much more than a baseball man who prepares players for the next step in their pro careers. He’s a father figure who also helps steer them through the responsibilities of being young adults, many of them living away from home — or even away from their native countries — for the first time.
“He means so much to those kids,” said Roger Hansen, the Mariners’ minor league catching coordinator and a close friend of Bottin. Hansen lives near Stanwood.
“Parents call Andy to see how their sons are doing,” Hansen said. “They come to him to drive them places. If they have personal problems, he helps them. You name it and he helps them with it. During the winter, parents are still calling him to ask about their sons. A lot of it’s not even baseball related. It’s other things.”
Bottin sacrifices plenty to do this job.
This year he’ll spend about seven months away from his Camano Island home, and away from his wife, Jeni.
He has been in Peoria since late January to help with the Mariners’ minor league minicamp and, after going home a few days in early April, he’ll return for extended spring training and then the Arizona League season that runs from June until September. After another short break, he’ll return for the Mariners’ fall instructional program.
“Winning this is the fruit of the labor, so to speak,” he said. “But it also happens because of the understanding at home with my family. They know the passion I have and the love I have for the game. But there’s an even greater love for them to even allow me to do this. It goes both ways.”
While in Peoria, Bottin lives in the same place he’s been for years, Room 204 of the Hampton Inn near the Peoria Sports Complex. It’s convenient when he goes to work at 4 a.m. each day in the summer to open the facility and prepare equipment for the workouts.
It’s far from baseball glamour, but Bottin says it’s gratifying when he sees young players develop and, especially, when they win a championship.
“For me it kind of fulfilled the circle. It was my first championship as a manager,” he said. “That in itself is gratifying, whether it’s the rookie league or the big leagues. The ultimate is the World Series, but this one is right up there for me.”