The 33-Year-Old Rookie

We’re all suckers for an underdog story.

We root for Rocky and Rudy and the Tampa Bay Rays, which is why it’s hard not to enjoy The 33-Year-Old Rookie, the story of Phillies catcher Chris Coste.

Coste is the ultimate underdog, an undrafted college infielder who spent five years in the independent leagues hoping to get noticed. Along the way he learned how to catch and develop an interesting hitting style that looked ugly but got results.

Finally he latched on with the Indians in 2000, but it took another six seasons of solid work for Double-A and Triple-A teams and plenty of disappointments before he finally made it to the bigs.

When he did, he showed he belonged. Coste hit .328 over 65 games, helping the Phillies on what proved to be a futile run at the NL East pennant.

If the story ended there, it could be a Disney movie, but it didn’t. Coste still found himself back in the minors to start the 2007 season, although he eventually made it back to Philadelphia in time to help the Phillies make it to the playoffs.

Coste is the Rasputin of baseball—you just can’t kill his career. As you would imagine, his trip to the big leagues makes for a good read, and because he’s played for so many teams, in so many cities, he has plenty of stories to share. But what’s surprising is how well written the book is. Coste is credited as the sole author, but the book is better written than most collaborative athlete autobiographies that are actually written by professional writers with input from the player.

Coste will never be a big league star, but that’s what makes this book a great read. If you want to find out what it’s like to make it to the big leagues as a player, there’s no better guide than going to Fenway with a catcher who spent years wondering if the dream was even possible. The 33-Year-Old Rookie may not make you a Phillies fan, but it will make you a Chris Coste fan.