Sunday, March 22, 2009

Zen Dayley: Koskie overcame long odds

Corey Koskie will be a remembered as a ballplayer for playing Canadian.

Good Kingston lad Bob Elliott of Sun Media and the Canadian Baseball Network explained it in his book The Northern Game. The defining trait of Canadian ballplayers is they go all out, dive for balls, play hurt. Maybe it has to do with growing up where you can't take baseball for granted because of the shorter summer, maybe the hockey mentality rubs off a bit. Koskie was that kind of player, but that can only go so far:
"Look at the facts. I'm 35. I still can play. On the other side of it, if I play, I want to be 100 percent. I don't want to be thinking about, 'What if I do this? What if I dive? What if I do this?' It might be a little different if I was 23 and had my whole career ahead of me and I didn't have any kids, didn't have a family, didn't have a wife. It might be a little different. Really, what am I trying to squeeze out for two more years?"
There really isn't much more to add. Koskie did manage to be one of the few Canadian-born and -trained position players to become an everyday player in the major leagues at a position other than first base or the outfield, and he did it while coming from a province, Manitoba, which hasn't produced many major-league ballplayers (for a time, Manitobans were able to say they say had a player in four major leagues, since Todd McCulloch was still in the NBA when current Chicago Bears D-lineman Israel Idonije was just starting out in the NFL.)

There are going to be more in the future. Russell Martin is catching for the L.A. Dodgers; Brett Lawrie is moving through the Milwaukee Brewers system. Koskie, in that sense, was a little ahead of his time, and was a big part of the Minnesota Twins winning three straight division titles from 2002-04, typically hitting 20 homers and stealing 20 bases. He played a position which extracts a lot of wear and tear from a ballplayer, but please remember that at his peak with the Twinkies, Koskie was exceptional. Jeff Blair sees him as a scout, so why not.

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