Veteran catcher Kurt Suzuki was back where it all began. Home of the team that drafted him in 2004.
“When you come in here one last time as a player, it kind of feels weird,” Suzuki said Monday in Oakland ahead of the start of the Angels’ final series of the season. “I don’t think it’s going to hit me until I start coming onto the field.”
Suzuki is likely to be the starting catcher for Tuesday’s game, the penultimate game of the season, with right-hander Michael Lorenzen on the mound.
“His workload tomorrow, we’ll see how it goes,” Angels interim manager Phil Nevin said ahead of Monday’s game, which the Athletics won 5-4 in 10 innings with a walk-off single by Tony Kemp. “This is where he started. This is a special place for him. We will try to make this as special as possible for him.”
Suzuki’s final few innings as an MLB player — 15 years and about four months after his first stint in track and field green, gold and white — will be different, aside from the fact that they’ll wear a different uniform.
Suzuki’s debut wasn’t here at the Colosseum, but he remembers it clearly. He had been called up by Triple-A days before his June 12, 2007 debut while the A’s were in San Francisco.
Traveling with them for their next series in Houston, he was told he might not play more than a week and would spend that time just getting used to the big leagues.
At the time, Jason Kendall, who rarely missed a full game, was the A. Suzuki’s starting catcher watching the game from the bullpen, a game that was heavily attended when Houston star Craig Biggio made his 3,000. career hit.
“In the 10th inning we’re still tied, they called down and I think someone’s walking, they’re warming up the pitchers,” he recalled. “They say ‘Zuk, you have to get down there.’ I go, ‘What?!’ They say, ‘Yes, you’re going to back down.’”
Suzuki was told to take all his stuff with him after the next out.
“It’s getting out, they open the door and I sprint through the outfield with my bag, shin guards on the dugout,” Suzuki said, “and everyone’s staring at me.”
Suzuki finished that first at-bat – scoring his first hit in the next game – but he stayed in the catcher.
“We had the bases loaded, two outs, I remember that clearly,” said Suzuki. “Morgan Ensberg batted, he hits a cue shot at the first baseline. I sprint out of there, I grab the ball, I throw it and it went right on his back and I was like, ‘Oh no!’
“He dives, it goes over his back, they catch him, he’s out, inning over, we go in the dugout, everyone’s like, ‘Ah! Good game! Good game!’ And I was just like, ‘Oh my God.'”
Suzuki’s career spanned 16 seasons with five different teams and numerous teammates.
Anthony Rendon was one of those players and the two won a World Series together while playing at the Washington Nationals.
“He’s the quintessential baseball player,” Rendon said of Suzuki. “Just this hard work. That gritty guy, that good player in the clubhouse. The intangible things that you can’t put on paper, the way he talks to the youngsters, the way he helps them through the season.”
Added catcher Max Stassi, who has known Suzuki since he was a kid in the A-System, “I was invited to big league camp for first spring practice in 2010… Kurt took me under his wing, talked to me every day. He didn’t have to do that… It speaks volumes for him as a player to be able to do that for someone who just got drafted.”
This year Suzuki knew it was time to make a career. He had been considering retirement for the last two years and it was his children that influenced his final decision.
“I didn’t even have a great year this year, but it wasn’t even that,” said Suzuki. “It was more, I still felt like I could perform at that level, it’s just my daughter 11, she’s in sixth grade, my two boys are 8 and 6.
“There’s nothing like saying that my whole career, family is number 1. Family first no matter what, and that was kind of the big driving factor.”
Rendon was back in the starting XI for the first time since June 14.
The Rendon, which appeared in two at-bats and at third base on the plate, was a work in progress. He struck twice and had a throwing error.
Rendon dislocated a tendon in his right wrist in May and underwent surgery in mid-June. He initially tried to delay and play through the operation, but the discomfort was too great.
https://www.latimes.com/sports/angels/story/2022-10-03/kurt-suzuki-looks-back-career-angels-athletics-recap Kurt Suzuki reminisces about his MLB debut with A’s as retirement looms