Monday, October 01, 2007


The image running constantly through my mind today--of all the possible images from the great weekend of tense baseball--came from one of this morning's newspaper photos. It had Phillies catcher Chris Coste, chest protector in place, rushing to the pitchers mound celebration after the final out in their National League East clinching game Sunday.

Can any of us image the thoughts going through this 34-year-old's mind at that moment?

We have told Coste's story on other occasions in this space and especially in our Independent Baseball Insider column. It seems worth repeating as he and as many as seven other players with Independent Baseball experience head to major league baseball's postseason.

Coste's story is the impossible dream becoming possible.

Undrafted out of Concordia College in Minnesota, then 22-year-old Chris Coste first experienced professional baseball by playing 24 games in 1995 in the long-departed Prairie League. Next it was four summers in the independent Northern League with his hometown team, the Fargo-Moorehead Redhawks. That's Fargo, ND and Moorehead, MN to the uninitiated. He grew from a so-so infielder into a starting catcher, although he continued to play some at various infield positions.

Pittsburgh signed Coste after the third of those seasons, but released him before the next season (1999) started. The Indians came along after '99. They released and re-signed him. Then it was the Red Sox and the Brewers, and, prior to 2005 Philadelphia. There were some spring training games and some near misses, but Coste spent the six seasons from 2000-2005 in the high minors, AAA and AA baseball.

Well into 2006 Philadelphia finally called Chris to the majors, primarily as a backup catcher. He hit .328 in his 198 at bats covering 65 games with his name listed in the starting lineup more frequently at the end. But, hold on. He went back to the minors on the final day of spring training this season and once more after a brief callup from May 14-24.

He came back on June 29, and stayed the rest of the summer, getting time behind the plate although largely backing up touted regular Carlos Ruiz. Coste got 129 at bats, hit five homers and drove in 22 and hit .279 even though he slumped in limited time of late.

Ruiz got plunked on the elbow in the fourth inning of Sunday's 6-1 win against Washington. Enter Chris Coste to catch 44-year-old Jamie Moyer to start the fifth with a less-than-certain 3-1 lead. Our hero also got hit by a pitch and scored a run, but more than anything he helped nurse Moyer and the bullpen to five scoreless innings to give the Phils their first postseason bid in 14 years.


Then came the image of the never give up, 34-year-old Coste celebrating. What an image for him, for the Phillies and perhaps most of all for every hopeful playing Independent Baseball while dreaming of one day putting on the major league uniform.

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