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Coste-ing along: Injured ex-RedHawk knocking on majors' door

Four-year old Casey Coste eyed the catcher. She took to the wind up like so many pitchers have done at Newman Outdoor Field. Her father, Chris Coste, watched the ceremonial first pitch for the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks' season opener last Friday. I...

Four-year old Casey Coste eyed the catcher. She took to the wind up like so many pitchers have done at Newman Outdoor Field.

Her father, Chris Coste, watched the ceremonial first pitch for the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks' season opener last Friday. It was a trip back in memory lane for dad. He needed a break.

"Coming here tonight was priceless," Coste said. Coste, whose pro career gained momentum with the RedHawks, is trying to rehabilitate a high ankle sprain and deep bone bruise, an injury that has sidelined him since the second game of the season.

He's playing for Class AAA Pawtucket -- just one play from a roster spot with the Boston Red Sox. He can't get there on the disabled list, however. The thought is more painful than the injury.

"I asked him once about not playing and he said, 'I'm just crushed,'" said RedHawks pitcher and close friend Greg Salvevold.

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Coste was hurt on an attempted tag at the plate. A throw from the outfield brought him a few feet up the line toward third base.

The baserunner hit Coste in the shoulder and turned his body. His foot remained planted. He's been at the team's spring training facility in Fort Myers, Fla., the past three weeks trying to rehabilitate the ankle.

Last week, the doctor told him to take five days off. So he immediately caught a plane to Fargo. He was going crazy sitting in a hotel room by himself.

"Just watching TV all day," he said.

That's not his style. He just finished his second book -- "RollerCoster" -- mostly because he needed something to do during the day besides watch television.

The book documents the funny stories, practical jokes and weird happenings of the minor leagues. One story that won't be in there came on April 1.

That's when Salvevold's phone call woke up Coste, who was sleeping in Pawtucket. Salvevold told him that Doug Mirabelli, Boston's starting catcher, got hurt.

Suspicious of the day, April Fools, Coste laughed off the comment.

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"I asked him what his chances were of getting called up if Mirabelli got hurt," Salvevold said.

Yearning for confirmation, Coste turned on the TV. Ironically, the ESPN highlight of Mirabelli's collision came up within a minute.

"This is it," Coste thought to himself. "I could get the call." Coste was getting ready to travel to Buffalo, N.Y., the next day for Pawtucket's season opener.

For a while, Coste thought he may be playing that day in a major league city. "I thought I could be in the big leagues tomorrow," he said.

It turns out Mirabelli suffered an ankle sprain that caused him to miss only a few days. It wasn't enough to warrant a trip to the disabled list.

"You don't ever want to wish for that," Salvevold said. Coste's wish -- to get The Call -- is on hold. So close, so far away. So frustrating.

"Frustrating for everybody," said RedHawks manager Doug Simunic. "Not only the player but the organization. I'm sure winter ball is definitely on the horizon. He has to make up for lost time."

Coste said he was the next catcher in line when he got hurt. He was Pawtucket's starter. Pawtucket's two catchers, Andrew Dominique and Bill Haselman, are hitting in the .230s.

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Coste is capable of knocking on the .300 door.

"Just missing this much time this late in my career," said the 30-year-old Coste. "I can't afford it."

Asked if he felt pressure, Coste said, "Absolutely. With the RedHawks, the pressure is to win. In triple A, the pressure is to win and to perform to legitimize a call up. It all comes down to numbers."

Coste isn't sure of a target date to return. He said the biggest hurdle will be squatting behind the plate. The journey to get to the big leagues, he said, is not over by a long shot.

"Who knows," he said, while watching the RedHawks wrap up a win against Winnipeg. "Maybe I'll end my career here, too. You never know."

Perhaps an idea for a third book is already swirling in his mind.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack at (701) 241-5546

Jeff would like to dispel the notion he was around when Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press, but he is on his third decade of reporting with Forum Communications. The son of a reporter and an English teacher, and the brother of a reporter, Jeff has worked at the Jamestown Sun, Bismarck Tribune and since 1990 The Forum, where he's covered North Dakota State athletics since 1995.
Jeff has covered all nine of NDSU's Division I FCS national football titles and has written three books: "Horns Up," "North Dakota Tough" and "Covid Kids." He is the radio host of "The Golf Show with Jeff Kolpack" April through August.
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