FARGO — Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks manager Chris Coste remembers watching the construction of Newman Outdoor Field, which had not yet been named, during the spring of 1996.
Multiple times a week, Coste would pull up in his car and watch the progress, oftentimes grabbing lunch and sitting in the vehicle with his wife Marcia, then his fiancée, on the gravel road that now sits behind what is the left-field fence.
“We would just hang in the car and imagine playing in the stadium that was being built,” said Coste, who played for the RedHawks from 1996-1999. “I wasn’t even supposed to make the team at that point.”
Twenty five years later, Coste was in the dugout making the lineup card for the team’s home opener against the Chicago Dogs on Tuesday, May 25, in American Association play at Newman Outdoor Field.
“To see how far we’ve come, to not only make the team back in those days, personally, but to now be the manager, it’s pretty incredible,” said Coste, who went on to a Major League career that included a World Series championship after his time with the RedHawks. “It’s amazing how far we’ve come.”
John Silviano and Correlle Prime each belted home runs to help spark the RedHawks to a 6-1 victory against Chicago before 2,263 fans.
Prime cracked a two-run blast in the third inning for a 3-0 lead. Silviano hit a solo home run in the second inning. RedHawks left-handed starter Kevin McGovern pitched seven stellar innings, allowing one earned run on three hits to earn the victory. McGovern struck out nine batters and walked none. Three F-M pitchers combined to strike out 14 Chicago batters.
"Fun game," Coste said during his postgame radio interview. "Kevin McGovern, once again, did some amazing things. ... A lot of good stuff in this game."
The RedHawks played their first home game during their inaugural 1996 season at Jack Williams Stadium on June 7. The team didn’t play at Newman Outdoor Field, which was then called “The Nest,” until June 21 as the stadium wasn’t ready for play for the start of that 1996 Northern League season.
“Starting at Jack Williams was incredibly emotional because I played my (American) Legion baseball there,” said Coste, a Fargo South graduate who played for Fargo Post 2 and also had a standout baseball career at Concordia College.
Coste recalls seeing “The Nest” in its infant stages after the concrete for the grandstand had been poured and before the seats had been installed.
“No field yet, it was basically just leveled,” Coste said.
Coste said former RedHawks third baseman Johnny Knott checked out the infield grass during the pregame for the first game played at Newman in the 1996 season and the green turf wasn’t exactly anchored into the ground.
“They had just laid the sod down and it hadn’t even really taken yet,” Coste said. “I remember Johnny Knott reaching down and kind of grabbing the sod and the corner of third base and just lifting it up.”
Coste said the freshly laid sod didn’t have any “measured impact” on the opening game. That same field later had a major impact in Coste’s life.
“We eventually got married on that field later that fall,” Coste said.
Coste married Marcia on Oct. 5, 1996, at “The Nest.” He first pitched the idea to then general manager John Dittrich halfway through that inaugural season after the wedding date had been set, and Coste said Dittrich liked the idea.
“Fortunately, I have an understanding wife,” said Coste, who estimated around 500 to 600 attended the ballpark wedding.
The RedHawks (4-3) entered Tuesday’s home opener against Chicago with a .500 record after posting a 3-3 mark on their six-game road trip to start the regular season.
In 1996, both home openers were memorable for Coste. He said former RedHawks slugger Darryl Motley commented on the atmosphere of the early games played at Jack Williams Stadium, which was filled with 3,277 fans for the first ever F-M regular season home game.
Motley was a former Major Leaguer who helped the Kansas City Royals win a World Series Championship in 1985.
“We all felt like big leaguers,” said Coste, who started at catcher for that Jack Williams home opener. “Even a guy like Darryl Motley who won a World Series, hit a home run in Game 7 of a World Series, he was like, ‘Man, this is a great place to play.’ When he said that, that was a moment for me.”
Coste said his affiliation with the RedHawks as a player, coach and manager has had an “incalculable” impact on his life. He had the interim tag removed from his title this year as he was the interim manager during last summer’s pandemic-shortened season.
“This logo on our chest means a lot to me,” Coste said. “The passion of what the RedHawks means to me is really important.”