Patience pays off for Phillies' Coste

Callup a dream come true for Coste, family

PHILADELPHIA -- Chris Coste's resume lists baseball player and published author.

His first book, "Hey ... I'm Just the Catcher: An inside look at a Northern League season from behind the plate was published in 1997. He's "about 95 percent done" with a second book, tentatively titled "Roller-Coaster: A Ride Through the Minor Leagues".

Finishing it will be, "an offseason project," he said.

Added to the Phillies' roster before Sunday's game, he suddenly will need a new chapter that details the thrill of the eventual Major League callup, and completes a long, long journey through the Independent Leagues and multiple organizations.

Coste might want to rethink the title, too. Maybe something like, "Hey ... I'm Just a 33-Year-Old Rookie."

The story has written itself, and Coste is about to complete a journey that started with five years in the Northern League -- four with the Fargo-Moorhead Red Hawks -- and includes nearly six additional seasons in the Minors.

Coste says he dreamt of being in the big leagues many times, and told himself in those dreams that it was real. Then he'd wake up and be mad. So when he got the phone call from Red Barons' manager John Russell, he expected to wake up a victim of another cruel imagined reality.

I was sitting in my bed waiting to wake up because I've had this dream many times," Coste said. "I think this still is dream."

Except this one is more detailed, and includes speeding down Route 476, pulling into Citizens Bank Park, seeing his name on the back of a jersey, and walking into the dugout of a packed stadium.

"That was one of the cooler moments," Coste said.

The dream's next phase details his first Major League at-bat, and Coste has pictured that, too.

"I wonder if I walk up there, do I swing at the first pitch?" Coste said. "Do I take the first pitch? If the first one is down the middle, am I mad at myself if I don't swing at it? You think about things like that a lot. But I'll never know for sure unless it actually happens."

For proof that Coste's dream isn't going to end with him waking up, ask Marcia Coste, who is living her own dream. She watched Sunday's game on a computer screen, surrounded by family members, and caught her husband in the dugout.

"It was more real for me then," Marcia said. "I was like, 'He did it! He did it!' I'll be watching his first Major League at-bat. It's like a stream of happiness here. There are so many people who have been his fans through high school, college and the Minor Leagues, so everybody is happy along with us."

Marcia and Casey Coste, the couple's 7-year-old daughter, were scheduled to fly into Scranton Wilkes-Barre International Airport for the May 26 game against Indianapolis. Though their flight plans haven't changed, their final destination has.

"That's fine," Marcia said. "I'll drive anywhere."

She probably already has. The couple met in high school and she considers baseball her way of life as well. Heck, they even got married at home plate in Fargo-Moorhead Red Hawks Stadium.

It just seemed right.

"We were going to get married in a church, but being married to a baseball player, I know better," Marcia said. "That day turned out to be beautiful and sunny, and the next day was horrible, so it was meant to be. He actually wore a tuxedo in some of the pictures, and I told him to put his uniform on. We live at the ballpark, so that's nothing new for us."

This spring may have been the hardest of Coste's long journey, because he suffered the disappointment of coming so close to making the team in Spring Training, on the strength of a .463 average in the Grapefruit League. He appeared to have the team made, but the Phillies acquired David Dellucci on the eve of Opening Day.

Coste declined to discuss his feelings on the day he was sent down, clearly upset at having his dream snatched away. He hit .177 with two homers and 14 RBIs with the Red Barons, but said it wasn't because he was disappointed.

"If anything, I was trying too hard," Coste said, "because I didn't want to be that guy who acts like 'Woe is me' and that I should be in the big leagues.

He told Marcia that he'd appreciate it more when it happened. Nearly two months later, it has.

"It's like winning the lottery," Marcia said. "You wait so long. I'm still shaking because I'm so proud of him. I've never been the wife to tell him to stop or keep on playing. I've been with him so long that I know the role of the baseball player's wife. My dream is his dream, and our dream came true.

He wouldn't quit unless he broke his legs. Eventually, he'll coach somewhere, too. I don't see it ever ending, which is fine with me."

And fine with Chris. Ironically, his journey has begun because Alex Gonzalez's ended through retirement. Both players are 33, but Gonzalez spent 13 years in the Majors. Coste is going on two days.

"Two days, five days, five years," he said. "I'll enjoy it as long as it lasts."

Ken Mandel is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.