Friday, February 23, 2007

Other Thoughts

Spring Training Q&A

with Chris Coste

Good morning everyone! I will have some other thoughts down below, but today, I am going to jump right into the subject of today's Q&A. (for a complete list of Q&As done on this site, click here.)

The seventh in our series of Spring Training Q&As is with Philadelphia Phillies catcher/1B/3B/OF/PH Chris Coste. The Fargo, ND, native became the feel-good story of the 2006 baseball season when, at the age of 33, he was called up to the Phillies after 11 seasons in the minor leagues. After five years in Independent baseball, six years in affiliated ball, winters playing south of the border and playing in five countries, Coste's dream to be a big leaguer finally came true on May 21. And then he went 0-13 before collecting his first hit off of Jamie Shields of the Devil Rays in mid-June. And then he hit .328 in 65 games. Within no time, he was the team's primary catcher as the Phillies raced toward the playoffs. That attempt came up just short, but Coste made his impression. This offseason the Phillies inexplicably brought in veteran Rod Barajas to catch and are going to put Carlos Ruiz on the big league roster as well. That means that Coste will have to earn his way onto the roster again this spring. However, his ability to catch, play 3B, 1B, and some OF will help his cause. But his bat is what will earn him playing time. He could pinch hit, and if there are any injuries, he would be more than ready to take a starting spot again.  Don't count out that possibility!

Right after the new year in 2006, Chris participated in his first Q&A for this site. The responses, of course, were a little different then as he was still working his way up the ladder. And then last year, he also was kind enough to answer some questions in our Spring Training Q&As. Here are a couple of recent Chris Coste articles, one from the Philadelphia Inquirer, one from The News Journal (Delaware Online) and a article on the Cost(e) Effect. Finally, here is the Official Chris Coste website.

The following are his thoughts as 2007 Spring Training begins. Chris answered these questions a couple of days before Spring Training started:

SethSpeaks: Before looking toward 2007, I have to just ask a few questions about 2006 because it was just an incredible year for you. First, as disappointing as not making the opening day Phillies roster must have been for you, it just seemed to fit with the events of much of your career. In the end, did that disappointment make your May call up to the big leagues even more special?

Chris Coste: Getting called-up the way I did could not have been any better.  It would have been nice to be on the team for Opening Day, but when I got the call it was TOTALLY unexpected, making it even more special than I could have ever imagined.

SethSpeaks: Can you even explain in words the feelings going through your mind and heart when you got that call to the Phillies?

Chris Coste: I was hitting .177 in AAA when I got the call so it was the last thing I expected.  When I was told by my manager, I actually made him repeat himself several times to make sure he knew what he was saying.  Then, I assumed I was in a dream and that I would soon wake up from that dream...I am still waiting to wake up from that dream.  It was more disbelief than anything.  

SethSpeaks: I read the story about how you drove to Philadelphia from Scranton and heard from your daughter that she had made her birthday wish that you would make it up to the Majors. Talk about how much this meant to not only you, but to your family and friends.

Chris Coste: It was at that moment I realized how smart my daughter really was.  My wife and I had programmed her for several years that the big leagues means a lot more toys.  For example, in the past when she wanted an expensive toy or something that my wife and I did not want to buy her, I would say, "Well, when Daddy gets to the big leagues, I will buy that for you."  So she knew that Daddy going to the big leagues meant a lot more toys.  Also, when I saw my wife and daughter the first time after getting called-up, we shared a family hug and my daughter looked up at me and asked, "Daddy, just how rich are we now?"

SethSpeaks: As the Phillies catcher, you look out at some very good pitchers. But when you look around the infield, you see NL MVP Ryan Howard and All-Stars Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley. Can you tell us a little about those guys and what they mean to the team?

Chris Coste: They each provide something special and unique.  Jimmy is a very vocal leader and could be considered the captain.  Utley is an on the field leader and he makes everyone around him want to play at a higher level, kind of what Michael Jordan did for his teammates.  Howard is on a level of his own.  He is the guy that can take some pressure off the rest of the team because he is the guy that the other team will always focus on.  He is also easy to root for because he always wears that big "Ryan Howard Smile."  And the thing that I will respect about him is that he is a great person and teammate behind the scenes.

SethSpeaks:  You also were able to catch some really good pitchers in Jon Lieber, Randy Wolf and Tom Gordon. You also got to catch two guys that could have huge 2007 seasons, Brett Myers and Cole Hamels. From things I read, they really seemed to like throwing to you. Can you talk a little about the process of learning a pitcher, their stuff and maybe most importantly, earning their trust? Specifically, it seemed like you were able to bring out the best in Hamels.

Chris Coste: It is funny to hear fans or even some players talk about "calling a game" and that some catchers "call a great game."  A lot of people don't realize that the most important thing a catcher can do is KNOW his pitcher, not only his strengths and weaknesses, but his style and attitude as well.  I got to know Hamels, Lieber, and Jamie Moyer very well, and after awhile, they almost exclusively relied on me to call the game. There is no bigger compliment I can receive than from a guy like Jamie Moyer relying on me to call his pitches for him!

SethSpeaks: You homered off of both Tom Glavine and John Smoltz... first, how did that feel, and are you looking forward to hitting against Greg Maddux this year? (I wonder if any other hitters have homered against all three future Hall of Famers?)

Chris Coste: First, I am sure many guys have homered off both of them since both have been in the league for a long time. Next, it was obviously incredible to not only get hits off those guys, but homers as well.  I was pinching myself in the dugout on both occasions and running the bases was very surreal after each!  However, I was fortunate to have already had some success in the big leagues so I could at least act like it was not a big deal.  But even more rewarding is that both homers were incredibly important factors in the game.

SethSpeaks: How much fun was playing so many games in the heat of a pennant race?

Chris Coste: It was exciting and every game felt like a playoff game, and for awhile, it made me feel like I had never played in the minor leagues, which is hard to explain, but for the Phillies to count on me to catch all those important games at the end of the season was the greatest feeling of my baseball life.

SethSpeaks: As disappointing as not making the playoffs had to have been, I would think that the death of Cory Lidle after the season would put a lot of things into proper perspective. Although he was traded away from the Phillies in July, you have said that Lidle did a lot to help you out and meant a lot to you. Talk a little, if you will, about Lidle and your relationship with him.

Chris Coste: Cory was always great to me.  He kind of took me under his wing at times and actually requested that I become his catcher, which is an incredible compliment.  He was always talking about planes and flying and was constantly reading books about the subject.  When I was flipping channels at home in the fall and came across his face on TV, I knew exactly what had happened even before reading the was a sad time and my first thought and picture in my head was that of his wife and son.  It was hard to think that his son would grow up without a father...what a tragedy.

SethSpeaks: Last season, even I was receiving requests from publishing houses about getting your contact information. There was talk about the possibility of even a movie. How crazy did things get with the media once your story became more known around the country, and how did you handle it?

Chris Coste: It never became overwhelming.  I was on ESPN's Cold Pizza and did several radio and some TV interviews in almost every city we played, but it was a lot of fun and I got to publicize my book a lot.  I have fun telling my story...It took me a long time to get to the big leagues and as much as people like hearing my story, I love telling it even more.  Also, I was actually doing well in the big leagues and gained even more respect, so rather than just being a good story, I was also a productive major leaguer.

SethSpeaks: Back to the book, I know I am occasionally asked for an update on where you're at. Have you decided upon a publishing house yet, and is there a timetable for the release of your book?

Chris Coste: I recently signed a book deal with Random House Publishing for my autobiography.  I am in the process of writing it and it will be released in spring training of 2008.

SethSpeaks: Philadelphia fans have a reputation as being very difficult. What are your thoughts on the Phillies fans?

Chris Coste: They are very passionate and are always into the game. They have a bad reputation but are mainly very supportive and just want to cheer for a winning team. I have always had a huge passion for baseball, so it is an honor for me to play in a city like Philly.

SethSpeaks: So for the first time in a long time, you did not play Winter ball. How nice was an offseason spent with your family?

Chris Coste: It was odd as first, but once I settled into a daily routine with my family it was great.  I got to take my daughter to school everyday and for the first time in six years I was home for both Thanksgiving and Christmas.

SethSpeaks: When do you report to Clearwater for spring training?

Chris Coste: The official report date was Feb 14th but I arrived to Florida on the 3rd.  I got there early because I needed the extra work since I didn't play winter baseball.

SethSpeaks: It may seem like a strange question, but because you did spend much of 2006 with the Phillies, does your approach or thinking heading into spring training this year differ at all from previous Major League camps? 

Chris Coste: I have a lot more to lose this year.  In the past I was just trying to make an impression.  Now, I have a roster spot to protect.  It is a totally different feeling, but on the other hand, I still have a chip on my shoulder and have things to prove.

SethSpeaks: Have you set any goals for what you want to accomplish in spring training?


SethSpeaks: Have you set any goals for yourself for the 2007 season?

Chris Coste: I really want to be healthy the entire season because I know that even if I start out the season on the bench, I can work my way into a more important role, just the way I did last year.

Thank you very much to Chris for taking some of his time at the beginning of Spring Training. Obviously we want to wish him the best of luck, health and success in 2007! As we have in the past, I will try to keep finding articles and updates on Coste throughout the year.

Other Thoughts

There are still some Spring Training Q&As yet to be posted. I will try to get to some of them next week. IF you have any ideas for topics, any questions for me, or comments, please e-mail me. So, be sure to check back from time to time.. Please leave Comments or follow-up questions that I can take back to Chris for response. Thank you, and enjoy your day and your weekend!! 


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