Thursday, March 30, 2006
Twins Prediction Contest
Roger's Report from Spring Training
American Idol Thoughts
Good morning everyone! I have a few other topics ranging from last night's Poker Night to some Twins Notes to Roger's Final Report from Ft. Myers to American Idol Thoughts, but today, I would like to do something different.
Now, for the most part, this is a Minnesota Twins related blog. Most days, there will be at least something about the Twins, and there still will be notes down below. If you've been coming to this site for the last three weeks or so, you have noticed that there has been a section with Chris Coste updates. You may be asking yourself, Who is Chris Coste? Well, many of you probably know, again, if you have been coming to this site. I was fortunate to play college baseball with Chris at Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota, about ten or eleven years ago. I played some summer league ball against him. I got to know him as a person, and I like to think as a friend. Chris is 33 years old and on the cusp of making the Philadelphia Phillies opening day roster. At 33 years old, he would be making his Major League debut. I was really hoping that we would have some official confirmation that he will be heading north with the Phillies by now, but we are still waiting for that. Hopefully we will hear the news in the next 24-48 hours. I think that alone deserves some recognition, but there is a lot more to the Chris Coste story, and I want to share that with people today.
We read so often about players who are drafted in the first round. They get huge bonuses to sign. They are given every opportunity to get to the big leagues, sometimes even if they don't deserve it. Think about it from a team's perspective. If they sign a guy to a huge signing bonus and invest all that time and money in him, they are going to get him to the big leagues. Then we hear about Devil Rays OF and Baseball America's #1 prospect in the game, Delmon Young complaining last year because the Devil Rays chose not to bring him up to the big club for September at the age of 19.
Stories like that can only make you appreciate the journey that Chris Coste has been through in his baseball career. Here is a little timeline:
Chris grew up in Fargo, North Dakota, where he learned to love the game of baseball. Although baseball was not a high school sport in North Dakota, Coste quickly became a star at a young age with the Fargo Post 2 American Legion team, a team rich in tradition.
After high school, he went to Kishwaukee Junior College in Illinois, a very strong baseball program. There, he was only a pitcher. He did very well there, but he also wanted to hit, so he decided that he would transfer.
He came home and attended Concordia College in Moorhead, MN (right across the Red River from Fargo). Now, Concordia is a Division III school which has always been strong in baseball tradition. What did he do there? Well, I think that three Minnesota Inter-College Athletic Conference MVPs tells us that he did quite well. If you would like, please check out his statistics here. But to summarize, in his three seasons there, he hit 442 (.491 junior year, .484 senior year) with 32 doubles, 19 home runs and 103 runs and 110 RBI. He still pitched and was excellent on the mound too. In three years, he went 21-5 with 7 saves and a 2.11 ERA. Many of his numbers there are still school records. (During his summers, he played amateur baseball for a stacked Glyndon team that played in a few state tournaments.)
However, despite the incredible numbers, Coste was not even drafted after either his junior or senior seasons of college. Scouts didn't know his best position. They didn't know if he was quick enough. Some so much as said that he had a little hitch in his swing that would not allow him to be successful in pro baseball. Those of us who played ball with him were astonished. We wondered just how good the players that were drafted each year had to be if Coste was not even drafted.
I am sure that not being drafted hurt him a lot, but it not stop him from dreaming. The summer after his senior year at Concordia, he played briefly (and well) for Brandon, an independent league team in a league that folded mid-summer that year due to lack of funds. Again, that didn't stop him. He worked hard that next winter. He spent time working out and hanging out with Angels OF Darin Erstad, who had been taken with the first pick of the 1995 MLB draft out of the University of Nebraska. He was from Jamestown, ND, but lived in Fargo at the time.
A new expansion team to the Northern League was starting up in Fargo, the Fargo/Moorhead Redhawks. That winter, Coste was invited by Redhawks Manager Doug Simonich to try out for the team. However, he also told him that he would never make the team, that he would just be good for publicity, you know, a local guy trying to play pro ball. He went to camp and was moved to 2B. I remember talking to him briefly before an exhibition game in Perham before that first season. At that time, he had not hit much. He was not at all sure if he would make the team. That game, he had at least three hits and made a couple of great plays defensively. He even pitched a 1-2-3 inning. I remember he struck out former big leaguers, Gerald Young. After that game, he kept hitting, and really did well defensively at 2B. By the time the season was to start, he was the team's starting 2B.
However, a game or two into that inaugural season, the team's catcher was signed by a major league organization. Coste volunteered to try things as a catcher. Let's just say it really worked out. He became a very solid defensive catcher in a hurry, a guy that the opposition did not run against, but also a guy who called a good game. And hitting? Hitting was never a problem for Coste. In his four Redhawks seasons, he hit .314, .312, .328 and .335. He hit a lot of doubles and gradually added more power to his game. He came up with big hit after big hit and quickly was the poster child for FM Redhawks baseball.
Each offseason, it seemed, he would get an invite to a team's minor league camp. I know one year he went to a catcher's camp held by Mike Scioscia. He kept getting cut and returning to the Redhawks. However, before the 2000 season, the Cleveland Indians came calling. That year, the organization decided to keep him around. He started the year at their AA affiliate in Akron, Ohio. He played in just 65 games there because he was hitting .333/.381/.475 with 20 doubles already. He moved up to AAA Buffalo and hit .302 over the remaining 32 games. In 2002, I was sure that he would get called up. It was into June and he was still hitting over .400. But, he wasn't. As he said, the Indians just did not have a spot for him on their roster, at least not at catcher. He ended that year hitting .318/.377/.439 with 32 doubles, 8 homers and 67 RBI.
At the end of the season, he felt that the Indians gave him a shot with an organization, but they did not have any intent to have him be a big leaguer for them, so he signed a minor league deal with the Red Sox. It was really unfortunate. He was playing well, but he got hurt and missed much of the rest of the season. It is unfortunate because the Red Sox catcher at that time got hurt, so maybe that was a shot for him.
After one season in Pawtucket, Coste went to the Brewers organization where he spent the season with their AAA team in Indianapolis. He again fought injuries and only played in 78 games.
And that brings us to 2005. Coste was 32 years old, and decided to sign with the Philadelphia Phillies. He spent much of training camp with the team, but only got a handful of at bats before being sent down to AAA Scranton/Wilkes Barre. There, he put together maybe his best season yet. He was an International League All-Star and on the year he hit .292/.351/.466 with career highs with 20 homers and 89 RBI. He also played in 134 games, primarily at 3B. However, because he played 3B, he did not get a chance with the Phillies.
So that brings us to this spring. Coste, now 33 years old, is again invited to Major League spring training. But this year, he gets a real chance? Why? Because on the day of the team's first intra-squad scrimmage, 1B Ryan Howard shows up sick and can't play. Coste is inserted into the lineup and goes 4-5 with a homer and five RBI. The next day, he homers against the Yankees. The next day, he gets a game winning hit. Phillies backup catcher Sal Fasano was playing in the World Baseball Classic and their starting catcher Mike Lieberthal is also dealing with minor injuries. At 3B, incumbent David Bell misses most of training camp. Coste gets more opportunities to play and he comes through. And he comes through in a big way, a way that can not be ignored by the coaches, by the manager or by the General Manager.
Yesterday, Chris Coste got the start at DH for the Phillies. He batted seventh in the team's lineup and got to face former Cy Young winner Roy Halladay of the Toronto Blue Jays. Unphased, Coste lined a double in his first at bat. After flying out in his second at bat, he had another single in his third at bat. He grounded back to the pitcher in his final at bat. The 2-4 day puts Coste's spring training numbers at .474/.500/.842. He has five doubles, three homers and 11 RBI. In 39 plate appearances, he has just one walk, but has struck out just four times.
But even with that, there are still obstacles. One of those obstacles may have cleared earlier this week when the team put utility infielder Tomas Perez, a veteran who has spent time in ten of the last eleven seasons in the big leagues, on waivers. No team claimed him and his $700,000 contract. He is now off of the 40 man roster, which would make room for Coste to be put on it. The other obstacle could be the health of 3B David Bell. Here is the latest, from the Phillies website last night:
"A healthy David Bell means Abraham Nunez and Alex Gonzalez return to bench jobs and Chris Coste, Tomas Perez and Chris Roberson are left competing for the last remaining offensive spot."
So, the journey continues as even now, just four days before the season's Opening Day, we do not know whether Chris Coste will be on the Big League roster. He certainly has earned it. I can't imagine what more he possible could have done to earn it. But Coste has such an excellent perspective on the situation when he says that he came to camp to make an impression. He has put his name on the map, and even if he does not make the team out of training camp, he has the trust and confidence of the coaching staff that he could be called up during the season.
But, after a spring like he has had, the time is now. Hopefully his journey to the big leagues will be complete with a spot on the 2006 Philadelphia Phillies Opening Day roster! Everything else is just gravy!
THE AGE THING
Last week, I started asking myself about any players who were 33 or older who made their big league debut? Off the top of my head, I could think of Satchell Paige, but that was obviously for reasons beyond his control. So, I decided to look online to see how many players were 33 or older when they made their big league debut. I went back 60 years, to those who made their debuts in 1946. I did not include "special circumstance" players such as Negro League players who were not allowed to play in the big leagues or Cuban ballplayers who defected or players from Japan who came over late in their careers. That said, El Duque, Orlando Hernandez from Cuba and Kaz Sasaki from the Japan Major Leagues both made their big league debuts at the age of 32. The Twins Chris Heintz spent ten seasons in the minor league system before the Twins called him up last September. He was just 31. So, the results, I thought, were very interesting. Since 1946, 34 players have made their debuts at 33 or older. From that list, we can eliminate five from Japan. So, really, there have been just 29 players since 1946 who would qualify. Here are a few of them:
Diomedes Olivo - 9/5/60. He was 41 when he debuted with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Les Willis - 4/28/47. He was 39 years old when he played his first game for the Cleveland Indians.
Hank Izquierdo (8/9/67) and Minnie Mendoza (4/9/70) were both 36 years old when they made their debuts with the Twins.
Maybe the most famous player on this list is none other than The Rookie, Jim Morris, who was 35 years old when he debuted with the Devil Rays.
To me, the most interesting name on the list is Alan Zinter. He was the Mets first round pick in 1990. I remember that because I collected a lot of his Score baseball cards that year. Chuck Knoblauch, Frank Thomas and Mo Vaughn were all in that first round class too. However, despite his status as a first round pick, Zinter did not make The Show until the Houston Astros called him up at the age of 34 in 2002.
From 1971 to 1995, there were no players 33 or older to make their debut.
Since 1996, Morris, Zinter, Joe Strong (5/11/00 at 37 with Florida) and Alan Cockrell (9/7/96 with Colorado) are the only players over 33 to debut.
In looking at the list, you obviously won't find any long-time major leaguers. In fact, you may not recognize more than two or three names from the list. However, each of these players worked long and hard to finally reach their goal of being a big leaguer, and in the end, they succeeded! They got the opportunity to live the big league lifestyle, even if just for a short time.
People who know Chris Coste know him as a great guy. They know him as a guy who will talk to anyone, who won't think too highly of himself. I have told many people that I was a backup of his in college. That is to say, I rarely played. But I also got the opportunity to spend a lot of time with Chris at 3B during infield, or while taking batting practice. He was fun to talk to. We could talk baseball and strategy. I could ask him a "how to" question about a slow roller or we could talk about the virtues of Kelly Kapowski versus Jessie Spano. It was fun. I have recounted several of my favorite Chris Coste stories on this site before. You can find thoughts on Chris in my "The Best I've Played Ball With" article from a couple years ago. I was thrilled to run a Q&A with Chris as he was finishing his Winter League ball in Mexico in January. He also shared his thoughts heading into this spring training with me last month.
One of my favorite Coste memories was one of my first. When I went to Concordia, we played some fall baseball. We split into three teams. In one of the early games, I was on the freshman team, and we were playing the upper classmen. I think we beat them. I remember in Coste's first at bat, he hit a double to the gap in left center. I came up the next half inning and homered over the fence down the left field line. One at bat later, Coste hit a ball to dead center field. In CF, there is a batter's eye, a tall fence in fair territory. He hit the top left corner of the wall there and got a triple. The next half inning, I came up and I think I hit a ball about 400 to left centerfield. When I went out to take my position the next half inning, Chris came up to me and shook my head a little bit and said, "Are you trying to make me look bad?" He was being fully sarcastic, which, as a bright-eyed freshman I didn't understand. I apologized. He then smiled and said, "So, did you get all of that one?" I just smiled and said, "Yeah, I think so." So, when I was in the dugout and he would hit a home run, he would stand by me afterward, and I would nonchalantly ask, "Did you get all of that one?"
I could tell Coste stories and memories all day, but I wanted to share this space with several of Chris's friends and former teammates. I asked some of them to help me out by sharing with us a couple of Coste stories. As you will be able to tell, some of the stories are the stuff of legends. Some of the details are 10-12 years old, so maybe a little hazy. However, I think you will also see that a lot of people are really rooting for Chris to make it as much because of who he is as how great a ballplayer he is. So, let's get to it:
From Jeremy Kovash, a college teammate at Concordia, and another on the Best I've Played Ball With team:
1) As his teammate, I would never have told him this, but we used to go watch him hit as a VFW/Legion player as I played for the Moorhead teams and he played in Fargo. He had such a sweet swing. He did have a great article written about him in the Fargo Forum dubbing him "roto-reliever" so we gave him plenty of guff about that!
2) When Coster came to Cord, we were ecstatic. He fit in with the guys so well. He was a natural leader.
3) Coster was so skilled. In college, he could have easily played tennis, handball, racquetball, volleyball, handball, hockey, etc. He was fun to watch. He was always king in "flip." We used to have nasty wallyball games... but... he dominated that too.
4) Ron Litzau and I still joke about the times we were lucky enough to get two hits in a game... when we did... Coster would always have three and still get the ink! On a side note... Litz and I promised once (I don't think Coster remembers) that we'd go if he ever made the big leagues. I called him last week and told him we were coming if it happened. That would be an honor deserved for a great hitter.
5) His diet. We'd get meal money and he'd go to Subway and he would just order bread. Weird.
6) Coster was a team player. He would often talk to me about confidence. He would say things like... "you're a good hitter" and "swing out of your shoes." His leadership instilled confidence in others.
7) Coster broke his hand or wrist or something as a senior at Concordia. We went to the Metrodome and played eight games. He was hurt. He couldn't swing right handed, but decided to try lefty. Hit something like .400. Embarrassing for me... a lefty. In an amateur game a year or so later, for the Glyndon Braves, Coster went yard two or three times in a game left-handed (just for fun).
8) Playing against the Gophers and Oshkosh or other great teams, Coster always played well. It was funny going through the line at the end of the game and guys who had never heard of him from other teams would say "good game Coster." He hit a bomb against Jarrod Washburn in the NCAA tournament!
9) I have a great picture on my wall of Ron Litzau, Coster and I. We were three of just four seniors at Cord in '95 winning the MIAC title. We just jumped on his back. Three time MVP of the MIAC!
10) Finally, as I've kept in touch with Coster just a bit through the years... he's never acted better than anyone else. The other night I called and he continues to give folks the time of day and be thankful for their support. Tony Kunka, Brad Keenan, Ronny Litzau and a few others were "bat-men" in Coste's wedding to Marsha... its cool to see things going well for them. Good luck Coster.
From Bill Ibach, a Fargo baseball coach and teammate with Glyndon amateur team
How he hasn't gotten at least a September call-up yet is a mystery to me. He's an amazing baseball player. I've known Chris since he was 13 years old and have never seen a better hitter come out of this area. He's done some amazing things along the way. The story of him hitting a home run to win the college game is so familiar. He seemed to reallly thrive when the game was on the line.
I have one story to share with you that to this day is the most amazing thing I've ever seen on a baseball field. It happened in an amateur game in 1994. Chris played for us in Glyndon from 1992-1994. We had a very good hitting team that year and beat a lot of teams badly. We were in the middle of a doubleheader against a team from Kindred that actually wasn't all that bad. Coster had hit home runs in his first two at bats in the first game and we won easily in 5 innings. In his first at-bat in the second game he went up to the plate left-handed (without telling anyone what he was going to do). The first pitch he saw, he swung at and hit it out of the park. We were absolutely stunned and he got a lot of crap about being "lucky" and that he couldn't do that again in a million years.
His next time up, we were all wondering if he would try it again and he, again, stepped in left-handed. Again he saw one pitch and hit it over the fence. Now we were howling. I don't think the other team knew that he wasn't a lefty until all this commotion. He got one more at-bat in the game and, of course had to go up there left-handed. This time, the pitcher knew that he was hitting the opposite of his natural way and wasn't about to serve up another gopher ball, so he threw a curveball. Coste swung and missed and we all nodded and laughed. He was getting razzed pretty good. The pitcher, thinking he had found the weakness tried the same pitch again and "boom" the ball sailed higher and farther than the first two had. As he's circling the bases for the 5th time on the day (3rd time homering as a lefty) I thought to myself that I'll never see anything like this in my lifetime again. It's such an amazing story to me that I really don't tell too many people about it. It's the kind of story that you almost have to have been there to believe. But it's absolutely true.
From Todd Zolecki, Philadelphia Daily News Phillies beat writer. This was actually written one week ago:
I think Coste has a decent shot. I'm not saying it's great, but it's legit. It's a four-man race, if David Bell opens the season on the roster. Those four are Tomas Perez, Coste, Chris Roberson and an outfielder from another team (possibly Dustan Mohr). People in the organization like Coste's bat, and the fact he can catch and play the corner infield positions is a plus. What do I think his chances are? I'm not sure. Perez is making a guaranteed $700,000 this season, so that might play a factor. Would they just cut him and eat the salary? Roberson provides them a fifth outfielder, although he might be better suited opening the season in triple-A. A trade or waiver pick-up would knock the rest of those guys out of the mix, I'm afraid.
As far as Chris, I've had the chance to talk to him a little bit and he's a great guy. I know sometimes the media gets a bad rap for being too negative and things like that, but Chris is an easy guy to root for. He would make a great story. You've got to respect somebody who has chased his dream for so long. And he's probably as close as he's ever been. But he has the right perspective ... if he doesn't make the team out of camp, he hopes he's opened enough eyes that if something should develop during the season that they'll give him a shot. I think he'd be a nice addition because of his bat. The Phillies had Endy Chavez and Michael Tucker at different points last season as their fifth outfielder. They rarely played in the field, and basically were full-time pinch hitters. I think Chris would be perfect in that role.
From Joe Cuchna, another former Concordia teammate and among the Best I Ever Played Ball With:
Anyway, on Coste, we were playing NDSU and they had their big stud pitching against us, this guy was being looked at by scouts, some of which were at the game, and Chris had two or three hits, but one of the hits was a line drive that skimmed off the pitchers head, he just tattooed it.
When we were in the regionals against Oshkosh, WI, he struck out against Jarrod Washburn in one of his at bats, and he was saying why they wouldn't throw him fastballs especially since I believe we were losing, and I remember Tony Kunka telling him they weren't going to give him anything despite the score. So the next time, Chris went up there and hit just a laser to left. He hit it so hard that it only took one bounce and was on the left fielder, and actually it bounced over the left fielder and he ended up at second or third. I believe the next at bat he got another hit (Seth Note - actually a HR). Chris was always able to rise to the occasion and come through when he knew it mattered. Hopefully people will see this and give him a chance to contribute to their team.
From Kevin Miller:
Coster--Just want to wish you the best of luck on the long road you have taken. Seth asked for a story, but because of my lack of talent I didn't play with you at Concordia, but did play against you in Legion (Fargo v. Moorhead baby). Other stories would consist of times had in the basement of the Trader and Trapper, but I am not going into those on the internet. Take one deep for Kovash and remember that he taught you everything.
From Josh Buchholz, GM of the FM Redhawks and former Concordia teammate:
I first became aware of Chris Coste as a first year American Legion player in the Moorhead system. He was already building quite a reputation with our big rivals, Post #2 in Fargo. As college came in the fall of 1992, I found myself on the same Fall Ball team as Chris as we both were first year players for the Cobbers (Chris had transferred from Kishwaukee JC in the Chicago area). At the time, I was still trying to believe I was a hitter (which I wasn't) but in our first fall scrimmage my name was in the line-up batting fifth, right behind Coster. We were standing on the on-deck circle waiting to bat, chatting and getting loose. Coster looked at me and said "I'm gonna hit one over the batters eye, which was a 30 foot high wall in dead center, 400 feet away. I thought he was crazy, but when he connected on his next at bat the ball sailed to center field. He didn't quite carry the fence, as the ball hit the very top of the wall, but I can say to this day it was the closest I've ever seen anyone call their shot.
Little did I know that would be just the first of many exciting moments Chris would give me in my baseball career. When we both joined the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks in 1996 (he as an infielder quickly converted to catcher and me as the clubhouse manager (no more protecting him in the line-up, I guess), we were both pretty new to the world of professional baseball. Coster is one of the most clutch hitters I have ever seen and in his four seasons with the RedHawks. I can't even begin to count all the big hits he accumulated.
On behalf of the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks, I wish Chris the best of luck. To say his success is well-earned is an understatement. I look forward to seeing him in The Show and achieving his life-long dream.
From Scott DeBrito, another Concordia teammate (and yes, one of the Best I've Ever Played Ball With):
Here is a little tid bit about Coste.
My sophomore year at Concordia we were playing against some college in WI in the Metrodome, not sure which team, but Coste can’t swing the bat right handed because his left wrist was bothering him. Anyway, he decides he is playing anyway as there are a few scouts in the stands and he hits LEFT handed. He goes 2 for 3 with a triple off the baggie in right field. The scouts say to Buck “I didn’t know Coste was a switch hitter” Buck says “Neither did I”.
The same year, we won the MIAC and went on to the regional in Oshkosh WI. We beat St. Thomas in our first game and then were to face Oshkosh in game #2. Guess who is pitching? Jarrod Washburn. Jarrod as you know was taken as the 1st pick in the second round by the Angels in the 1995 draft. Darin Erstad was the the 1st overall pick in the draft. At any rate, there are about 25 scouts in the stands that day watching Washburn throw. He proceeds to fan 14 batters going the distance. Coste goes 2-4 with a double and a bomb off of the guy and doesn’t get drafted after 3 consecutive seasons as MIAC Player of the year, career .480 average, and then putting on a display off one of the best pitchers in college baseball that year. I didn’t get it.
I hope to heck the guy makes the phil’s roster. If anyone deserves it, it Coster! He has performed at every level he has played at. I bet he can do it in the bigs as well.
From Jim Anderson, VP and Director of Sales for MaxBats:
Here is my Chris Coste story.
As a North Dakota native myself, I'm always interested to see how Chris Coste is doing. I Had a chance to visit with him in the Phillies clubhouse one morning during this year's Spring Training. I was there to visit with current MaxBat customers like Jimmy Rollins, and hopefully gain some new clients in the process.
I saw Coste sitting at a table eating some breakfast and reading the newspaper, so I went over to shake his hand and wish him good luck. This is only the second time meeting him, but he remembered me and we had a nice conversation. He looked good and was really positive about his chances to make the club this year. He said he had a good winter playing ball in Mexico, and that he was getting some opportunities to play 1B.
Of course, part of the conversation was about bats, but really I just wanted to talk to him as somebody from my home state and to let him know that I was pulling for him and see that he makes the team and finally gets his chance. He would be the perfect addition to the Phillies roster. He can play multiple positions, and he's tearing it up this Spring.
A few days later I was talking to some of his former F-M RedHawk teammates Tony Richards and Steve Hine, and they always ask me, "When's Coste gonna make it to the bigs.....the guy can flat out hit". I hope to be the first to tell them in a couple of days that he finally has.
From Brannon Weigel, a teammate on those Glyndon teams:
I’m not sure what story to tell you about Coster. So, I thought maybe I’d just start rambling and see what happens. Pretty much all of my memories of Chris are baseball related. I went to his wedding but even that was at the Redhawks Stadium. The part about his wedding I remember the most was when the pastor pulled out a baseball in the middle of the ceremony. He said to Chris and Marcia that they should use this baseball as a reminder that marriage takes teamwork just like baseball does. I wonder where that baseball is now.
Another memory takes me to Kindred. Playing for Glyndon, we had won the first game of the double header quite handily. In Chris’ first at bat of the second game he hit a home run. From then on, he decided to hit left-handed and proceeded to hit two more home runs from the correct side of the plate. It was amazing.
Another instance of Coster’s hitting prowess takes me to Warroad, Minnesota for our region tournament in 1993 or 1994. The fun all started that day with a 2 ˝ hour drive for an afternoon doubleheader. During the middle of the first game our pitcher just could not get solid footing on the mound. The hole where the pitchers lead foot lands was a little soft. Our pitcher started to clear the loose dirt out of the hole when up came a crushed beer can. That can became the prize of the last batter on our team to hit a home run. I don’t remember the exact box score of the first game (I’m sure Gerald, our Manager at the time, has the scorebook around somewhere) but I believe Chris was 4-5 or 5-6 with at least one homerun. I was keeping pace with Coster at the time and held the beer can trophy at the end of the first game. I’m a real streaky hitter and I was having one of those good days. It became a contest for the two of us. The can switched hands a few times as both of us had hit more homeruns by the middle of the second game. I had the last at bat and a chance to match whatever Chris did though since Coste hit third and I hit fifth in the order. Chris held the trophy nearing the end of the game. I needed a homerun now to win. In my final at bat, I drove a ball to straight-away center field where it left the field…for a double! The umpire ruled that the ball somehow went through the chain linked fence for a ground-rule double! Unbelievable! I ended up having to concede the trophy that day as Chris was just a tad better. I believe I went 8-11 that day and Chris was 10-12. Amazing! Just as amazing was the other 11 beer cans that were pulled out of the pitchers mound that day to complete the 12-pack. The Warroad players told us that Crookston had played there the previous night and weren’t too happy about a call made against them that day. So, they must’ve buried their sorrows in the mound.
I remember coming home from another road trip to St. Cloud. It was the second day of the Major League draft. Chris had been in touch with multiple teams daily up to draft day. The scouts were telling him he would be drafted, without a doubt. After getting back into town late that evening, Chris invited me and the other guys who Chris had ridden with to St. Cloud over to his house. This was before the day of cell phones so we couldn’t wait to get to his house to listen to the messages on his machine. We step inside his house and press the play button on his answering machine. There were 20+ messages on his machine! Wow! More than one scout calling! As we listened to message after message and kept hearing the voices of family and friends “checking in” instead of the voices of Major League baseball scouts or general managers, the mood slowly turned from anticipation and anxiousness to concern. Finally, the last message had played the voice of another family member “checking in”. Chris was not drafted that day and we all sat in silence. I think that day might have put a chip on Costers’ shoulder to prove that he can play at any level. I have never ceased to be amazed at his ability to play baseball. How many people would be able to discover the catching position in the Northern League? I am whole-heartedly rooting for Coster to get his shot at The Dream to play in the three-leveled stadiums with the big boys. It couldn’t happen to a better guy!
I had to inform Brannon that I now live in Warroad, and the baseball field here is now very, very nice! But I really like that last story Brannon told us. I can imagine that it was disappointing when he wasn't drafted. At any number of points along the way, Coste could have given up. But he never did. There is a great story in here somewhere. Maybe even a movie!
So, there you have it, a few more personal stories about Chris Coste. For the record, I kept the book during the Oshkosh game. Coste was 2-3 with a walk, a double, and a home run against Jarrod Washburn in that game.
THE REST OF THE STORY
The Chris Coste story is a great one. I know. I read it. Back in his Redhawks days, Chris authored a book on his baseball career at the point, through a Redhawks Northern League championship season. It was called "Hey, I'm just the Catcher" and sold very well. A couple years later, Roller Coster, his next book was set to come out. It still has not been finished. In a conversation I had with him awhile back, he told me that he has just not been able to pull the trigger on the book. He has not been able to OK it for printing.
Well, maybe there was a reason for that. Maybe Chris Coste is about to experience the storybook ending that he so richly deserves. Maybe that is why he hasn't been able to finish it. Maybe he was supposed to wait so that he could include a couple of chapters about finally getting his big league call. I know I will buy that when it comes out!
Again, I expect that within the next 24 to 48 hours, we will find out officially whether Chris Coste will be on the Philadelphia Phillies Opening Day roster or if he will be sent back to start the season at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. As Chris told me, he is optimistic but as of yesterday morning, the coaches had told him and promised him nothing yet. I would love to be a fly on the wall of manager Charley Manuel's office when he tells Coste that he did it, that he made the team, that he can call himself a big leaguer. I would love to see Chris's reaction. I would love to feel what I am sure that he will feel inside. Incredible pride. A strong sense of accomplishment. A relief that all of his hard work has finally brought him to his life-long goal. How will he handle that? How would I handle it? I'm getting goose bumps just thinking about it now.
And then on Monday when he walks into Citizen's Bank Ballpark in Philadelphia, and when he walks into the home team's clubhouse and sees a nameplate on a roster that reads "COSTE." He can look at it with pride and say, "I have made it." And what about when he takes BP on the big league field. And what about when his name is announced to the sell-out crowd. And, what about when he gets that first at bat, and then that first hit. Can you imagine?
A chance. I think that is all Chris Coste has ever wanted, all he has ever asked for. The Phillies gave him a chance this spring, and he fully took advantage of it. He has made the decisions very difficult for Phillies management. But now, all he can do is wait, and hope for another chance, a chance to be in teh big leagues. Knowing Chris, he will definitely take advantage of it.
And I, and a LOT of his friends, will be watching every step of the way.
Chris, on behalf of me, my family, and so many of your friends and fans, we wish you the best of luck with whatever happens. We hope to see you in that Phillies uniform (although we are curious if you will stick with #67 or get a lower number) next week, and we will be cheering for you every step of the way, as we have for the last decade! Good luck!
If you have any more stories or thoughts on Coste, please feel free to e-mail me, or certainly use the Comments below to add to the conversation.
MORE ON COSTE -
The Beerleaguer says that the 25th man on the roster should not be "Mr Irrelevant" and thinks that it needs to go to Chris Coste.
Yesterday, the Twins beat the Orioles 5-4. For more on the game, check out Roger's Report below.
Dennys Reyes was sent to the minors, so it appears that the pitching staff is complete with Francisco Liriano and Willie Eyre both earning bullpen jobs! Also, I would assume that Reyes will elect for free agency rather than go to AAA.
Aaron Gleeman introduces us to the new Twins pitching staff.
Any thoughts on the Twins? Please e-mail me.
ROGER'S SPRING TRAINING THOUGHTS
Roger and his wife finish up their Ft. Myers vacation. By the time you read this, they may be on a plane back to Minneapolis. However, they did check out the Twins/Orioles spring training game yesterday:Seth,Jason Kubel made a statement today with his play on the field, "the right field job is mine." Following Tony Batista's walk in the 4th with the Twins trailing 1-0, Kubel blasted a hard line drive that hit the top of the wall just right of dead center (est. 400'), and bounced over for a 2-run homer (off a left handed pitcher). Kubel earlier made an excellent running catch after a long run on a deep line drive in right center. He also came up with runners on 2nd and 3rd and one out (Tony Batista K'd ahead of him) in the 8th with the Twins down 4-2. Facing the "Hawk," he hit about the same hard line drive as he caught earlier...with the O's right fielder also making a great catch. The runner on third scored easily and the runner on second moved up to third. The long homer, a great catch and a clutch sac fly...made a definite statement.Silva was his old self early, getting a nice double play to end one inning. However with runners on 1st and 3rd and one out in a later inning, Batista bobbled a hard grounder getting no outs with the O's first run scoring. It appeared that he was overanxious to get the ball to second to start the DP. In a later inning, he had a similar play which he made cleanly. The original runner got on when Castro went deep into the hole and made a nice pickup, then threw wild to first base pulling Morneau off the bag. If this is the left side of the infield Gardy wants for D, they didn't get it done today...please give the job to Jason and let him play.Liriano came on to pitch 3 innings. The leadoff hitter broke his bat, then hit a dribbler back to Liriano on a pitch or two later. Jeff Conine struck out twice (first ball dropped by Mauer), then Tejada went down without touching the ball. The next inning was much of the same, with the only ball leaving the infield a shallow fly to left. In the 8th, the defense got sloppy and a couple hitters got hits to the outfield. One batter put down a bunt that Liriano picked up and bobbled, unable to make the throw. With runners on first and third and 1 run in, Liriano got a DP ball to Alexi Casilla who made the toss to Plouffe for the force...however, Plouffe threw wild to first keeping the inning alive as another run scored. With the help of the defensive misplays, the O's got 3 in the 8th to take a 4-2 lead. One interesting play for Liriano was an earlier swinging bunt (ended the 7th inning) down the 3B line. He threw about a 98 mph bullet to Morneau at 1B with the throw never getting much over 3' off the ground. It looked like Morneau actually caught it in self defense and had this big smile on his face as he came off to the dugout saying something to Liriano. Perhaps the best aspect of Liriano's performance today was that he was consistantly getting ahead of hitters by throwing his fastball for strikes on the first pitch.After Kubel's sac fly in the 8th to make it 4-3, the youngsters got the Twins the win in the 9th. Trent Oeltjen led off with a clean single to left field. Alexi Casilla was up next, and I think everyone in the park was expecting a sacrifice to move the tying run to second. Instead of a bunt, he blasted a line drive into deep left/center that the left fielder couldn't get to. Oeltjen was holding, so we didn't get to see Casilla motor all the way to third. With runners on 2nd and 3rd, Lomasney struck out and Rondell White hit a single thru the infield driving in Oeltjen from 3rd and Casilla from 2nd (he was really moving after rounding 3rd). Twins win, 5-4, with two kids that will be at New Britain leading their bottom of the 9th comeback.Looks like the Twins still have a few decisions to make, however, I suspect Jason Kubel earned the starting right field job going 2-4 in his last game followed by his big game today. Still some decisions to make at short and about a bench spot, however, the roster is taking shape before their trip to Canada.Bon and I are leaving for home in the morning, I hope all of you have enjoyed these reports.Roger
Thanks again for your reports all week, Roger! Any thoughts on the Twins minor leagues, or anything you have read here, Send me an e-mail.
I almost did it again last night. There were 32 players (I think) at Poker League last night. It was the 10th and final week of the league. I already qualified to play in the tournament of champions in E. Grand Forks in May by winning two weeks ago.
Last night was another fun night. Unlike a week ago, I actually won my first hand and things just kept getting better. Well, not better the whole time, but whenever I needed, I was able to get the cards to win hands. And of course, there was some luck involved.
I'm not going to discuss hands or anything like that. I thought I played it pretty well, with obviously a few exceptions and again, plenty of luck! This week, I came in third place, and was very happy with that!
AMERICAN IDOL THOUGHTS
Last night on American Idol, the competition was reduced to just nine remaining when Lisa Tucker was eliminated from the show. Although she was my favorite going into the competition, something went wrong and she has not been good since. It was the right choice by America, although it likely completely eliminates me from my own American Idol League! Oh well! Ace Young and Katharine McPhee were the other two in the bottom three. I wasn't so surprised to see Ace there as he has been there before, and was not good last night. I was a little surprised that Katharine was there because, although she wasn't great, the judges were nice to her.
And on those notes, thank you again very much for stopping by my site. I hope you enjoy what you read, but if you have any questions or comments on anything, please feel free to e-mail me.
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