A journeyman ball player, especially one who makes stops with eight Triple-A teams and four Major League clubs, quickly becomes a fan favorite wherever he plays.
Syracuse Chiefs fan favorite Chad Mottola has been the International League's MVP and earlier this season he became one of two active Minor League players to collect 1,800 hits and 1,000 RBI.
Now the Syracuse Chiefs have honored and immortalized his 15-year professional career with his own limited edition action figurine.
However, Charles Edward "Chad" Mottola, the University of Central Florida alum, born in Augusta, Georgia and drafted by the Cincinnati Reds in the 1st round of the 1992 MLB amateur draft, may be ready to call it a career.
"This year may be my last," the 35-year old outfielder said. "I still love the game. I enjoy playing. I'm going to keep doing it as long as that fire is still inside."
Along the way of his 15-year career, Mottola hasn't lost the perspective that fans drive the game.
"Here in Syracuse," said Mottola, whose 33 home runs, 30 stolen bases and 102 RBIs helped earn him the 2000 MVP award, "we may not have a quantity of baseball fans but the quality of the fans we do have is outstanding. It's nice to know that you're appreciated."
Mottola still loves the game and attacks it on a day-to-day basis.
"I live this game day-by-day," Mottola said. "It has given a lot to me and my family. My career hasn't panned out the way I had hoped. I only can control what's right now. I live this game day-by-day and still learn from it."
Mottola has played in 59 games at the Major League level, but hopes for more.
"Every player wants to play in the big leagues," Mottola said. "I'm no exception. I would very much like one more shot."
Growing up in Fort Lauderdale, Mottola was a football star at St. Thomas Aquinas High School, but key injuries in his senior year paved his path toward baseball at Central Florida where he met his wife Emily, who had an outstanding volleyball career during her college years.
The Cincinnati Reds selected Chad with the fifth overall pick in the 1992 draft, one spot before the Yankees grabbed Derek Jeter.
"Chad probably did me a favor," Jeter told Mike Berardino of the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel during spring training. "I would have been stuck behind Barry Larkin for a long time. I thank Chad."
|DID YOU KNOW?|
| Chad Mottola won the home run hitting contest at the 2001 Hall of Fame Game when he played for the Florida Marlins. He was the first player from the University of Central Florida to hit a Major League home run and is one of 23 players to make it to the big leagues from St. Thomas Aquinas High School.|
Once thinking the game revolved around him, Mottola soon learned that he was just a little fish in a big pond and there were many others that had equal ability. By his own admission Mottola's ego might have cost him an extended Major league career. The strapping power hitter and fleet footed outfielder developed an attitude problem during his tenure with the Reds.
"Once you're labeled it's hard to get rid of," Mottola said of the chip he put on his shoulder. "I thought I knew it all. I found out the hard way that this game isn't here for me, I'm just part of it."
In his first free-agent year (1999), Mottola signed with the Chicago White Sox and played that year with the Charlotte Knights.
"Reality set in when I had no offers," Mottola reflected about that off-season after leaving the Reds. "I had always had things handed to me. I figured out that I needed to (overhaul) my attitude and realize that (longevity) was based on performance. I needed to produce. It was a big reason I was able to stay in baseball as long as I have."
Now, Mottola looks back with mixed emotions.
"This wasn't something I had in mind," Mottola said of his milestone marks set earlier this year. "While I'm here I might as well enjoy it."
Fatherhood has changed Mottola's outlook, as it does for most new parents. It's what drives Mottola these days, especially bike riding and swimming with his nearly two-year old son, Luke.
"It's a great feeling being a dad," Mottola told 'On Board' during a father's day interview. "If I have an ugly game, can come out of the clubhouse and have Luke run into my arms it puts everything into perspective. It's a lot better now being able to leave baseball in the clubhouse and be a dad and husband away from the park. It gives more of a drive now than at any other time to try and get one more shot with a big league club."
Mottola's favorite pastimes in the fall are his fantasy football leagues and spending time with Luke.
"I'm around baseball six to seven months of the year and it's tough on the family," said Mottola, who cherishes the off-season. "I really enjoy my time away from the game. My life revolves around what Luke wants to do. Knowing (Emily and Luke) are home while I'm still playing has made things somewhat different."
Mottola always assumed he would play baseball until they ripped the uniform off his back.
"I only know one thing and that's to come to the ballpark," Mottola said. "To put on a uniform and go out and battle everyday. When the day comes to hang up the spikes then the next day when I wake up I'll worry about what's next to do."
"It's been a roller coaster, there's no doubt," Mottola said of his career. "At the age I'm at now I have friends who keep it in perspective. They're out in the real world. They tell me to keep playing."
"My goal right now is to get back to the big leagues and be ready when they need me," Mottola continued. "Years from now I might look back and realize I had a pretty good career."
Will Mottola go to the "Dark Side" and take up coaching?
Mottola resists talking about that subject as much as possible, although he admits he could see himself making that transition one day.
"I'd consider a coaching job," Mottola said. "It would be a tough decision because the game has changed a lot along the way. Coaches don't have the power they should. Players tend to run the coaches a little too much. Today's coaches do more babysitting then actually coaching, but I have confidence in anything I do and I'll be successful in whatever I chose."
"Guys who love the game, those guys are usually the ones that want to stay in coaching," said Toronto Blue Jays General Manager J.P. Ricciardi. "You don't play as long as Mottola has without loving the game."
"My body will let me know when it's time," Mottola said. "I'm comfortable that things will work out."
So, if not baseball, what will Mottola's future hold?
Along his career path Mottola has met a lot of people. Friends in law and real estate have opened his eyes about what might come next. Some have offered to set him on a new career path when he's ready.
Syracuse fans hope Mottola will be around for a year or two more, but when he's gone, thanks in part to his action figurine, they'll never forget one of their favorites.