01/18/2008 11:20 AM ET
Journeyman Coste to release book
Phillies catcher details rise through Minor League ranks
By Doug Miller / MLB.com
Phillies catcher Chris Coste tells the tale of making it to The Show in his new book. (George Widman/AP)
Chris Coste, the Philadelphia Phillies' backup catcher, has written a book about his unique baseball life that will be released by one of America's premier publishers on March 18.
But even if Random House decided to take every copy of "The 33-year-old Rookie" and throw them in the Schuylkill River before they made it to bookstores and libraries, it probably wouldn't take long for Coste to get over it.
That's because his perfect ending was written before he ever put pen to paper.
"If the book turns out to be a big success, so be it," Coste says. "Hopefully some fans will latch on to it and enjoy it. But it'll never be as big a success to me as just making the big leagues. Nothing would give me more of a reward than making the big leagues and having success."
Coste didn't play in a Major League game until May 21, 2006, and he was already 33 years old. His call-up came after too many near-misses to count and an arduous journeyman's odyssey through the Minors that dotted vagabond outposts in Canada, Panama, and even Fargo, N.D.
Fargo is Coste's hometown. It's the place where he was born in 1973 and the place where he found himself as a member of the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks of the independent Northern League for four seasons because he couldn't even get a shot in Single-A ball.
In other words, rejection and being ignored are nothing new to Coste, who wasn't offered any college scholarships and, as he tells it, "had to fight just to become a pitcher in junior college.
"And then, ultimately, 15 years later, I make it as a catcher. My story, even the people that know me and my teammates, I don't think a lot of them really know how far away I was from Major League Baseball."
Fargo was far enough for Coste, whose indie club, "kinda took the city by storm," he recalls. Coste began documenting that story in his free time and wrote his first book, "Hey ... I'm Just the Catcher: An Inside Look at a Northern League Season From Behind the Plate." The task of recording his thoughts and memories in an ongoing journal became therapeutic for him during long bus rides and those endless rain delays in bush-league parks.
And two years ago when he finally made it to The Show because a Phillies roster spot opened up when Alex S. Gonzalez retired, his story of perseverance thrilled fans and carried all the way to the offices of publishers. Now Coste could write in the plush confines of tony big-league clubhouses on the laptop of his choice.
It wasn't so easy, though.
While his fantastic 2006 Spring Training and May 2006 call-up were milestones for Coste and the culmination of decades of hard work, they didn't guarantee anything, as is often the case in the Major Leagues.
In fact, Coste was sent back down all the way to Double-A Reading in late May of last season to make room for the re-activated Ryan Howard. Coste, never too concerned that he wouldn't make it back to the big leagues, already had his book deal in hand, so it turned out that Reading was a great place for writing.
"When I officially sat down to begin writing, it was kind of intimidating, because I was wondering, 'How could I possibly find time to do this?'" Coste says. "But honestly, there's tons of down time during the season. There were times during rain delays that I'd pop open my laptop and get going. And it was easy to get in the baseball mindset. I was able to almost recapture the same emotions because it was during the season."
Coste was called back up to the Phillies about a month after he went down to Reading, and he stuck with the team for the rest of the season. He has done quite a bit in his two portions of Major League seasons, including batting .376 with seven home runs and 32 RBIs in 198 at-bats in 2006 and five homers and 22 RBIs in 129 at-bats last year.
He's hit long balls off potential Hall of Famers Tom Glavine and John Smoltz and also inspired a legion of fans to flock to Citizens Bank Park, dress in red bathing suits, lather sunscreen on their noses and call themselves the "Coste Guard."
And the whole time, he's been crafting his magnum opus.
At the request of his publisher, he has whittled the "The 33-year-old Rookie" manuscript down from about 98,000 words to 80,000 words using a writing style that Coste terms, "not great by any means, but it's well-written enough to be a good read."
"I'm not (John) Grisham," Coste adds. "Just a ballplayer who's moderately good with words."
Casual readers won't be the only ones who notice. Already there's been buzz around Hollywood about the story, which can easily be marketed to studios a la "The Rookie," which was about former big leaguer Jim Morris, and "Invincible," the story of former NFL player Vince Papale.
The themes are all very simliar, Coste says.
"It's never too late to reach for your dreams and never too late to achieve your dreams," he says. "I guess that would be the little catch phrase."
And if there is a movie, who would Coste pick as a leading man to play the catcher from North Dakota with the heart of gold and the iron will?
"Matthew McConaughey," Coste says. "I hear he's a baseball fan."
Doug Miller is a Senior Writer for MLB.com/Entertainment. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.