ROGERS sportsnet Magazine

Welcome back, Koskie

AS A TEENAGER, COREY KOSKIE COULD JUMP HIGHER THAN ALL BUT THREE VOLLEYBALL PLAYERS IN CANADA. THEN HE TURNED HIS ATTENTION TO BASEBALL.

MIKE RUTSEY March 7 2005
ROGERS sportsnet Magazine

Welcome back, Koskie

AS A TEENAGER, COREY KOSKIE COULD JUMP HIGHER THAN ALL BUT THREE VOLLEYBALL PLAYERS IN CANADA. THEN HE TURNED HIS ATTENTION TO BASEBALL.

MIKE RUTSEY March 7 2005

Welcome back, Koskie

ROGERS sportsnet Magazine

AS A TEENAGER, COREY KOSKIE COULD JUMP HIGHER THAN ALL BUT THREE VOLLEYBALL PLAYERS IN CANADA. THEN HE TURNED HIS ATTENTION TO BASEBALL.

MIKE RUTSEY

t says something about Corey Koskie that you can call him a “long shot” to his face, and he’ll consider it a compliment.

Now the pride and joy of the Toronto Blue Jays after the last Canadian team standing signed the 32-year-old free agent to a three-year, $16.5-million contract in mid-December, Koskie has never forgotten his humble prairie roots or the role that fate and chance played in his development.

“I wasn’t a long shot,” Koskie says with a laugh of his improbable voyage that brought him from the small town of Anola, Man., 20 minutes east of Winnipeg, to the major leagues. “I view it as being a no shot.”

To say that Koskie was a diamond in the rough early in his career is grossly incorrect. He was more like a lump of coal.

“That’s why I think it was a God-oriented plan,” says the deeply religious Koskie. “If you try and break it down logically, you can’t. If you look at it, I shouldn’t be playing baseball right now.”

Every journey has a starting point and with Koskie it was Anola, a dot of perhaps 70 people truly in the middle of nowhere in both the geographical and the baseball senses.

“I grew up in a small town in Manitoba and I didn’t play any baseball,” Koskie says of his

KOSKIE TRIVIA

PLAYED GOALIE with the Selkirk Steelers in the Manitoba Junior Hockey League

VOTED MVP at 1992 Canadian volleyball nationals

CO-WINNER of 2001 lip 0 ‘Neill Award with Larry Walker as Canadian Player of the Year, awarded by the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame.

IN 2001 Koskie was the first Twin in 14 years to reach the 25-plus homer and 100-RBI mark, and became the first American League third baseman and second third baseman in Major League history with 100-plus runs, 25-plus homers, 100-plus RBIs and 25-plus stolen bases.

KOSKIE met his wife Shannon Merritt in Surrey, B.C., while attending Kwantlen College and playing at the National Baseball Institute. They now have two children.

AS A NATIONALLY RANKED

volleyball player, Koskie could jump higher than all but three players in the country.

COREY KOSKIE

STATISTICS

WEIGHT THROWS 9/9/98

youth. “I played town ball, maybe five, six games a year, and there were no practices. At that time my main goals were volleyball and hockey. I never thought about playing baseball.”

But then things started breaking his way.

A standout player in Canadian intercollegiate volleyball,

“I was going on a full ride [scholarship] to the University of Minnesota to play volleyball when out of the blue some [baseball] coach [John Smith] in Boone,

Iowa, started to call me every day, I mean every

day, and sometimes twice a day,” Koskie recalls. Smith had spotted Koskie in 1992 at a scouting camp run once a year in Canada by the Cincinnati Reds. “For some reason I decided to go there and play baseball,” Koskie says.

“I had a surgery after that season and it was supposed to be a 12-week rehab thing. Instead I came back in eight weeks and that enabled me to go to the Canada Games. It was a question mark as to whether I’d be ready for the Games.

“In the end I was put on the roster, and that’s when the NBI [National Baseball Institute] saw me there. It was at the NBI [in Surrey, B.C.] where I met coach John Haar, and he really helped me out. I was really rough before

COREY KOSKIE CHRONOLOGY

BORN ANOLA, MB POST SECONDARY UNIVERSITY OF MANITOBA BOONE COLLEGE, DES MOINES, IOWA KWANTLEN COLLEGE (B.C.) 1994 MINNESOTA TWINS 26TH ROUND LEAGUE TEAMS ELIZABETHTON, TENNESSEE FORT WAYNE, INDIANA SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH FIRST MLB HIT ■ 12/9/98 VS. OAKLAND’S TIM WORRELL

that. It was at the NBI where a Twins scout saw me.”

And the rest is history.

“It’s my faith that keeps me humble,” he says of it all. “I realize that at any moment you can get knocked in your place real quick.”

To that end, Koskie has been a tireless participant in charity programs around MinneapolisSt. Paul. And his humility shows.

“A guy that I do a lot of work with [Bob Fisher] sleeps out in a tent beginning November 15 until he reaches his goal [US$1.5 million],” Koskie says. “It’s all about making a difference in your community. Bob’s a shoe repair man, he’s called Shoe Bob, but what he does in the community is unbelievable.” Koskie not only lends his name to the charity that gives aid to housing projects, he participates by sleeping out in the tent with Fisher on nights so cold that penguins wear mittens.

“It never fails that the nights I go out and sleep with him are the coldest nights of the year,” Koskie laughs. “The last one,

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when I woke in the morning, it was nine below [Fahrenheit].” In coming to Toronto, Koskie has fulfilled a dream. He worshipped the Blue Jays once baseball took prominence in his life. But the decision to leave the Minnesota Twins, his only pro organization, was a tough

one, for reasons beyond sentiment and loyalty.

“I’m surprised about how excited I am [in signing with the Jays],” Koskie said five weeks after he inked the deal. “I’m a person who doesn’t like change. I don’t like rocking the boat. I don’t like things being different.

‘Tm excited about playing for the Blue Jays,” says Koskie, pictured here digging for second under former Blue Jay Roberto Alomar.

“But saying all that, that’s why I’m surprised that I’m so excited about playing for the Blue Jays.”

Married with two sons, Koskie is at a stage of personal development where he can

feel secure and drink it all in.

“You have to have open eyes,” he says. “A lot of people go through life with their eyes closed.”

Not this man. ^

Mike Rutsey is a veteran baseball writer with the Toronto Sun.