Chris Coste Returns to Buffalo
by Andrew Kulyk and Peter Farrell
Former Bison inducted into Buffalo Baseball Hall of Fame
Talk to any Buffalo Bisons fan regular about the team and its fortunes, and people will immediately wistfully remember and talk about the golden era in recent Bisons history.
The Cleveland Indians era, bookended around the millennium, offered Buffalo fans many powerhouse squads. Repeated trips to the playoffs. Three league titles. Players, coaches and managers who found fame and fortune in the majors after their time in Buffalo.
Those reminiscences came to life last Friday night at Coca Cola Field, as three individuals were inducted into the Buffalo Baseball Hall of Fame: Bisons associate and now official scorer Kevin Lester, and former players Greg LaRocca and Chris Coste, both members of those memorable Bisons squads.
Chris Coste’s journey to Buffalo and beyond was the more improbable one. Unlike most players who get drafted at a young age and work their way up the minor league ladder, Coste had no such luxury. He was playing independent ball in Fargo, N.D., when the Indians plucked him out of their lineup and signed him to a minor league contract.
And at age 27, he immediately became the Bisons oldest rookie, joining the team in 2000. He appeared in 230 total games with the Herd, posting a .307 average, the 4th best in the team’s modern era. In 2002 he earned team most valuable player honors and was named to the league’s All Star team.
Coste accepted his award on the field prior to last Friday’s game, and spoke passionately about his time in Buffalo. “Baseball people everywhere knew that outside of playing the majors, Buffalo was the place to be when it came to playing,” said Coste.
Coste admitted that he was one of the few players on the roster in Buffalo who didn’t have major league service time. “For me, I thought I was different than everyone else. But within a week, I came to realize that besides wins and losses, where we were a good team, it was amazing how there was a brotherhood and there was this camaraderie and it was all about being a good teammate. I got treated like a major leaguer, the fans were great, the ownership group was phenomenal. The Cleveland Indians also did a good job at stocking their minor league teams. We all felt like we were in the big leagues.”
His arrival to the Indians organization, and to the Bisons, was no great providence of scouting. “They saw me play a couple of years earlier at an independent league all star game. So in 2000, they needed extra catchers in spring training, and they signed me. The timeliness of the situation was ideal for me. Fast forward a month and here I am in Buffalo.”
Fellow enshrinee Greg LaRocca wasn’t the only player of that era who made his mark on Coste. “I could list them all. I could mention Dave Roberts as a big one. He kept telling me I’d make it one day (to the Majors). Mark Budzinski, Dave Hollins, Jeff Manto, Karim Garcia, Tim Laker...Laker stands out. Buffalo had a weird way of picking guys who weren’t that good individually and making them great teammates.”
Eric Wedge managed the Bisons, and Coste, for two seasons. Was Coste surprised to see Wedge vault up to Major League status as a manager with Cleveland, and later Seattle, so quickly? “No,” was Coste’s emphatic reply. “Those of us who played for Eric Wedge knew that he was going to make it big. The reason I say that is not that he was just a good manager, but he was pretty tough, and in a great way. AAA managing can be tough because you’re dealing with a lot of personalities, but he had a way of getting the most out of his guys. We figured he’d get to the big leagues by the time he was 35, and he did just that.”
Coste achieved every boy’s dream of making it to the big leagues, when he became a member of the Philadelphia Phillies in 2008. And not only making the team, but a team that won the World Series. Coste was in the lineup for one game in that championship series against the Tampa Bay Rays, a game played down in Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg. He went 0 for 4 that night, but remembers every moment of that experience.
“For me, I was one of the most prepared players to ever play in the World Series. The reason why is when I finally got to the big leagues, every game felt like the World Series to me. I never knew if this would be my last game. So when I got there, I knew how amazing it was. I was older, I knew my time playing was limited.”
Coste sported his Phillies World Series ring last Friday for folks to see, mingling with fans in the stands. He now manages a division 3 college baseball team at his alma mater, Concordia College in Minnesota. “Id like to manage pro ball some day. Maybe I’ll get discovered. It’s all about being in the right place at the right time. But when I step back and look at the totality of my experience, I can say I’ve been truly blessed. And Buffalo was a huge part of that.”blog comments powered by Disqus
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