During 2015, as I focused this website of mine more on baseball in general and my hometown Philadelphia Phillies in particular, I was fortunate enough to enjoy my first interviews with individuals who had a close association with the Phillies franchise.
That year I interviewed former Phillies closer Mitch Williams, top prospect shortstop J.P. Crawford, and Spanish language broadcaster Angel Ibo Castillo. The next year, former Phillies publicity director Larry Shenk shared memories from his career.
Then in 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic struck, I rekindled my interest in finding interview subjects. That year, I was able to interview former Phillies players Scott Eyre and Eric Valent, broadcaster Gregg Murphy, WIP talk radio host Joe Giglio, baseball artist Graig Kreindler, actress and uber-Phils fan Ellen Adair, and Mark ‘Frog’ Carfagno, the former Phils groundskeeper who for decades has spearheaded the efforts to have Dick Allen enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame.
That 2020 series of interviews was the launching of what I hoped would become a regular feature titled “10 questions with...” (read all pieces at that link) which is a fairly self-explanatory format. Over the last couple of years since, I never followed up. This piece is the resurrection of the series, which I now intend to continue as often as subjects can be found to participate.
So, the return here of that interview series has arrived. And this time we have the second member, after Eyre, of the 2008 World Series championship Phillies ball club. Backup catcher Chris Coste is the subject, and he provided some great insight on that 2008 championship team, the Fall Classic experience, and the parade, including that memorable Chase Utley moment. He also gave a great rundown on his own career in the game. I hope you enjoy.
10 Questions: Chris Coste
1. Thanks for participating, Chris. To start it off, can you catch fans up on what you’ve been up to since retiring as a player? I know that you’ve done some coaching out west.
CC: I did some pre- and post-game with Comcast for the Phillies in 2011-12 and then started coaching at Concordia College in Minnesota (my alma mater) in 2013. I took over as head coach in 2015 and still going strong. I also manage minor league baseball in the American Association for the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks. We lost in the finals in 2021 and won the title this year. I get to be in baseball around amazing people 365 days a year.
2. After college, you spent the mid-late 1990’s playing independent ball. Your book “Hey… I’m Just the Catcher: An Inside Look at a Northern League Season From Behind the Plate” related these experiences. Can you tell us about a couple of individuals who kept you inspired to continue pursuing your pro dream during those years?
CC: My grandpa Bob was my role model and father figure growing up. I had a ton of help and inspiration along the way, but Grandpa Bob was the guy! My wife and I have been together since high school so she was also a big part of it as well. Other than that, my college coach, and several of my minor league managers had a huge influence, like Eric Wedge and Carl Willis. Other than that, my teammates along the way were also very supportive and inspiring. Too many to mention them all, but Dave Roberts (Dodgers manager) was a huge inspiration when we played together in Buffalo in the early 2000’s.
3. Though you didn’t reach the big leagues with them, you finally get to play organized ball with the Cleveland organization from 2000-02. Did you have any exposure to Charlie Manuel during those first years?
CC: Yes, I got to know Charlie well during those Indians years, and it was a big reason why he paid attention to me in 2006 in Major League spring training.
4. By 2006, you were 33-years-old and had been at Triple-A for seven years with four different organizations. Did you ever start to think that you might not ever get the call to the bigs?
CC: Of course, when you spend as much time as I had in Triple-A, you almost think it’s too good to be true for it to even happen. It’s similar to winning the lottery: someone has to win, but for it to happen to me, NO WAY! However, I knew I would eventually get into coaching and managing when my playing career was over. I was going to play to gain experience as long as someone allowed me to wear a uniform.
5. What can you tell me about getting notified that you were going to Philly? Who notified you, and where were you at the time?
CC: Got a call from my Scranton manager, John Russell. I was hitting .177 at the time and we were five weeks into the season. If your manager calls and you’re hitting .177, don’t answer the phone! So, I let it go to voicemail while I paced back and forth in my room for 10 minutes assuming I was getting released and wondering if my career was over.
CC: I called him back and he basically just said: “Get your bags packed, you’re going to Philly.” I was confused and had no idea he was talking about the big leagues. I thought they were sending me home and my flight was going out of Philly. He said it again: “No dummy, get your bags packed, you’re going to Philly, you’re going to the BIG LEAGUES!” I was stunned, in shock, and honestly thought I was in a dream because this just didn’t make sense. After all, I was hitting .177 and for 10 minutes had paced the room thinking my career was over. So, to think not only was I not getting released, but I was going to the big leagues? There was no way this was true!
6. Your first appearance comes with the Phillies trailing Milwaukee 6-5 in the bottom of the 10th inning at Citizens Bank Park. You nearly tied it up with a deep fly out to center field. Any memories of that first AB against Jose Capellan?
CC: Yes, it took for a long time to get to the big leagues. Even though I was a first-ball fastball hitter, I always thought I would try to make my first at-bat last as long as possible. However, Jose Capellan was a hard throwing right-hander with a nasty slider. I assumed he would try to get ahead with the fastball so rather than gambling on a slider later in the at-bat, I decided to attack the first pitch if it was a fastball. Unfortunately, I just missed it and my long awaited first at bat was over in the blink of an eye.
7. The club lost each of the first four games in which you appeared. But then your first-ever start results in a 6-2 victory at Washington at RFK Stadium. Any memories of catching the late Cory Lidle that day?
CC: Corey Lidle was aware of my story and was a big supporter and believer in me as a catcher. He requested that I catch that day, which is as big of a compliment that a catcher can receive. Other than that, the game was a blur.
8. Let’s fast-forward to the 2008 World Series. You got to start Game 1 at Citizens Bank Park as the DH, your only career appearance in the Fall Classic. Tell us about some of your favorite memories of that game and the series overall.
CC: We knew Scott Kazmir was starting Game 1 for the Rays which meant that our DH would likely be a righty. I had a great first half of the season. But the second half, I cooled off quite a bit. Charlie was either going to go with Pat Burrell as the DH with Eric Bruntlett in LF, or Burrell in LF and me as the DH. Normally, Charlie was great at letting us know the lineups in advance. But since this was a tough decision, he decided to wait on it.
CC: Around 10AM, I received a text from a producer at ESPN. It said: “Hi Chris, we just found out you are starting Game 1 as the DH so if you win tonight can you come on the show tomorrow to talk about the game?” That’s how I found out I was starting, from a producer at ESPN. I went 0-4 in the game, but we won. It felt like I had four homers.
CC: My other big memories from the series are the weather and delays, Brad Lidge striking out Eric Hinske to end it, and storming the field with the team. Amazing, dream-like experience that cannot be put into words. Then the parade a few days later. That parade was incredible and the emotion of that day, and sharing that emotion with phans, was beyond anything we could have ever imagined.
9. Your memories of the Broad Street parade and ceremony at Citizens Bank Park? What did you think of Chase’s “colorful” exclamation?
CC: Although not shy, Chase has always been a man of few words. So, in the middle of his speech when he paused and looked back at us, we knew something good was on its way. I actually have a framed photo of the exact moment he said the words, and signed by Chase with his phrase. What’s that worth?$
10. The Phillies had a few of your 2008 championship teammates here for the 2022 World Series. Do you interact with any of them regularly and has the team invited you back yet for any events? Any chance that we’ll see you back in Philly in the future?
CC: As of now I don’t have any plans to get back to Philly. I coach college baseball in the fall and spring, and manage minor league ball in the summer. Timing is always an issue with me. In hindsight, I would have gone to the World Series last fall. Hopefully, they have a 15-year reunion for the 2008 team. I do see some of the guys at Phantasy Camp each year in Clearwater. But I do miss Philly a ton and still pay attention to the Phillies and Eagles quite a bit. Go Phils!
For more in-depth insight into Chris’ life and career, be sure to order a copy of his book “The 33-Year-Old Rookie: My 13-Year Journey from the Minor Leagues to the World Series” available at that link from Amazon as hardcover, paperback, audio book, and for your Kindle.
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