Fan favorite Coste continuing to live the dream
Chris Coste had a plan. He wanted to be a Major League manager.
"I always thought that was my path," Coste said. "Go into the Minor Leagues, become a manager, work my way up to the big leagues."
Then again, baseball has always been a game of adjustments.
A backup catcher who became something of a folk hero when he played for the Phillies from 2006-09, Coste is now in his second year as the head coach at his alma mater, Division III Concordia College in Moorhead, Minn., after three seasons as an assistant. And that's the job he intends to keep until he retires.
"When you're a professional baseball player, you're never home for more than a month or two at a time," said Coste, who turned 42 on Feb. 4. "Once I got home and was home for a full year, I realized I didn't want to leave. My family is there. It's where I want to live. It's where my life is.
"I have no intention of looking for a Division I job or a Minor League/Major League job. I love life the way it is right now; I'm as happy as I could possibly be. And this is what I'm going to do -- here at Concordia for the next 30 years, or more."
Coste made his Major League debut for Philadelphia on May 26, 2006, when he was 33. That made him the oldest Phils player to play his first game in the big leagues since Izzy Leon in 1945. Coste had enjoyed his second straight great spring that year, batting .463 with three home runs and 11 RBIs, but he once again failed to make the Opening Day roster.
By then, though, Coste had already developed a following at Citizens Bank Park. Many fans identified with his years of bouncing around the Minors and independent leagues and his disappointment at doing everything he could in the Grapefruit League and still being sent back to the Minors.
Coste ended up playing in 256 games for the Phillies before being claimed off waivers by the Astros in July 2009, batting .282 with 23 homers and 98 RBIs. His experiences became the basis for an autobiography called, aptly enough, "The 33-Year-Old Rookie."
Coste spent two years as a part-time studio analyst for Comcast SportsNet, but he never seriously considered auditioning for a full-time job in the booth when there was an opportunity over the offseason.
"I can't say there wasn't interest, but I knew there really wasn't a possibility when I heard some of the names being thrown out," Coste said. "I can't say that if that had been a possibility for me, I would have turned it down. But it would have been a very tough decision, just because of my current situation. I have it pretty good back in Minnesota with the family and the guys."
Coaching collegiately has been a learning experience for Coste.
"The biggest difference from what I expected was my inability to immediately transition to a different level," Coste said. "When you play at a certain level for 16 years like I did, there are so many things that you just assume everybody knows. Like the way you run a bunt play, the way you defend a first-and-third steal, throwing to a certain base.
"Then you get to Division III and they're incredibly talented. But I look back when I was their age and I didn't know half that stuff. So that was my biggest weakness my first year. I didn't realize how unprepared we were, which is my job as a coach. I realized that I have to be a lot more specific."
Coste is succeeding Bucky Burgau, who was his coach when he played at Concordia. In many ways, he couldn't have invented a better spot for himself.
"[Burgau] brought me on board to take over for him as he slowly transitioned his way out," Coste said.
"I was fortunate to transition slowly into a program. Before the first year, I was unsure. And after the first year, it was so obvious to me -- not only what I needed to do but what I wanted to do the rest of my life. I always knew baseball was going to be a part of it. It was just a matter of where. Well, Concordia is definitely the where."