Did you see No. 27 piling on last night? He didn't even get flagged for 15 yards.
No. 27 was Philadelphia Phillies catcher Chris Coste, who spent five summers in Independent Baseball, including 1996-99 with his hometown Fargo-Moorhead (ND-MN) Redhawks of the Northern League, before finally even sticking in a major league farm system (Cleveland) for the 2000 season. He reached the majors with the Phillies in 2006 at the age of 33.
Coste ran from the dugout at the dramatic close of Game 5 of the World Series to dive onto the pile in the middle of the diamond at Citizens Bank Park. He and his Phillies teammates were World Champions, and No. 27 was very visible on television sets everywhere.
Other players drew most of the attention, but no one among the 25 postseason-eligible Phillies has a right to be happier or prouder of reaching this pinnacle.
"I'm getting closer" (to believing the reality of it all), Coste said over the telephone when I reached him a midday Thursday, roughly 14 hours after the final out of the 4-3 clincher against Tampa Bay.
He said the reality might well sink in for many players during Friday's championship parade.
I had heard numerous plaudits for Philadelphia's vocal fans through my TV set all night Wednesday, sometimes thinking, "don't we hear the same thing every October when the champions are being crowned." Maybe not. Coste brought the subject up, stressing how much fun it was "to be able to share it with the city".
"There is no coincidence we did not lose a (postseason) game at home," he said. When I asked for further explanation, he cited, among other things, how he could see these flag-waving, vociferous fans "get the opposing pitcher rattled a little."
COSTE HAD HIS OWN CHEERING SECTION
In addition to wife Marcia and daughter Casey, 9, part of the postseason was witnessed in person by Coste's mother, stepfather and "people from Fargo". One person he singled out was Kansas City T-Bones Manager Andy McCauley, who lives near Philadelphia. McCauley, a coach with Fargo-Moorhead during part of Coste's lengthy stint, lived his own celebration out earlier this fall. His T-Bones, only 46-50 during the regular season, won the Northern League title after losing Game 1 of the best-of-five championship series and trailing Gary, IN 7-1 in the second contest.
HOW DOES $700,000 SOUND?
We did not talk about the financial side of being on a World Series winner, but Coste's salary of $385,000 for his first complete major league season and a full Series likely to top $300,000 (each Boston player received $308,000 last year) would be welcomed by anyone who has worked his way through Independent play.
It would even dull any feelings for only playing in one World Series game (0-for-4 in Game 1) after pretty much sharing catching duties during the regular season.
MICHEL HERNANDEZ'S NEAR MISS
Tampa Bay backup catcher Michel Hernandez, who spent part of 2007 with the Somerset (NJ) Patriots of the Atlantic League and was in the Pittsburgh farm system until August 31, came within a few feet of getting into the final World Series game and ending his drought for the entire postseason because of the solid play of regular backstop Dioner Navarro.
Manager Joe Maddon had Fernando Perez run for Navarro in the top of the ninth inning Wednesday. Perez stole second, and represented the tying run when pinch hitter Ben Zobrist scorched a liner at rightfielder Jayson Werth with one out. Had that drive settled to the ground--as it first appeared it might--and the fleet Perez scampered home Hernandez would have strapped on the chest protector in the bottom half of the inning. The 30-year-old Cuban native with more games in Somerset (25) than the majors (10) would have had some story to tell. Come to think of it, the near-miss isn't half bad.