The 33-Year-Old Rookie: My 13-Year Journey from the Minor Leagues to the World Series
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Chris Coste dreamed of playing major-league baseball from the age of seven. But after eleven grueling years in the minors, a spot on a major-league roster still seemed just out of his reach–until that fateful call came from the Philadelphia Phillies in May 2006. At age thirty-three (“going on eighty”), Coste was finally heading to the big time. The 33-Year-Old Rookie is a real-life Rocky, an unforgettable and inspirational story of one man’s unwavering pursuit of a lifelong goal. Beginning in a single-parent home in Fargo, North Dakota, and ending behind home plate on the flawless diamond of the Phillies’ Citizens Bank Park–where fans and teammates call him “Chris Clutch” because of his knack for getting timely hits–this intimate account of Coste’s baseball odyssey is a powerful story of determination, perseverance, and passion.
Concordia College team in 1995. I’m in the front row, second from the left, with my hat on backward. We’re smiling because we had clinched the conference title earlier that day. The earliest photo of me catching. Our catcher had been signed by the Expos, and I volunteered to catch even though I’d caught only one game in my entire career. Talk about on-the-job training. Julie’s Photography My wedding to Marcia in October 1996 on the field of RedHawk Stadium. The guys holding the bats are
16, Marcia gave birth to our daughter, whom we named Casey. (No explanation should be necessary.) It was easily the most emotional and exciting day of my life and helped to put my recent career crisis in perspective. For after witnessing the birth of a child, I knew that there was nothing baseball could offer me that was nearly as precious. Nineteen ninety-nine was a career best: I stroked sixteen home runs in addition to batting .335, and once again was recognized as the top receiver in the
SPRING training 2002 would be crucial, because for the first time, I’d have the chance to play in front of a major-league manager and his coaching staff. It was common knowledge among minor leaguers that you had virtually no shot at seeing action in the big leagues without first having taken part in training camp with the parent club. No coaching staff is going to call up players it’s never seen or heard of before. Charlie Manuel, in his third season piloting the Indians, would be going with the
fighting to make an impression and full of the same intensity. I looked down to third-base coach Bill Dancy for the sign. He didn’t flash any—just yelled at the top of his lungs, “Okay, Coastey, do your job!” With a runner on second and no one out, “do your job” meant to hit the ball to the right side or deep to the outfield so I could at least move him to third. This can be a very difficult situation for a right-handed hitter, especially against a pitcher with a good fastball like Myette.
for me before, nor would it come easy in the future. The Phillies had moved their triple-A team from Scranton to Ottawa, Canada, which is where I found myself at the start of the 2007 season. Although Ottawa is only one level removed from the major leagues, to me it felt far, far away, like a Foreign Legion outpost in the desert. Once I’d tasted the big-league life and played in front of cheering Philadelphia crowds at the height of the pennant race, I felt lost in the frozen tundra of Ottawa.