Hey there, time traveller! This article was published 23/3/2018 (739 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
When you really think about it, Corey Koskie making it to the major leagues doesn't make a whole lot of sense.
For starters, he grew up on a farm five kilometres south of Anola — a small town that has roughly 200 people living within its limits. It's not exactly a place where big-league scouts would expect to find an everyday third baseman who can hit 26 home runs and drive in 103 runs in a season — which is exactly what Koskie did for the Minnesota Twins in 2001.
But it goes deeper than geography. Koskie's rise to baseball stardom makes even less sense when you consider the sport wasn't even on his radar when he was growing up. He was all-in on hockey and volleyball.
"Hockey was my first dream. Like every Canadian. I wanted to play in the NHL and play for Team Canada," said Koskie, who played a season of junior hockey for the Selkirk Steelers and had an offer from the University of Manitoba to play volleyball for the Bisons. "But volleyball was my best sport because I could jump. I really loved volleyball because I was good at it."
Koskie never envisioned himself dropping those sports to play baseball. Baseball was just something to do to keep busy in the summer.
"I played baseball in the summer because it was the time between hockey and volleyball season. Baseball was really just a gap filler," said Koskie, who went on to play nine seasons in the majors. "We'd play only six to 10 games a year and practise once or twice a week."
Over the years, he began to play baseball at a more competitive level, while still playing hockey and volleyball. In 1992, he was named the Manitoba Junior Baseball League's Rookie of the Year and helped the Elmwood Giants win the provincial junior title. Despite his success on the diamond, he was still more well-known for his talents on the ice and hardwood. The University of Minnesota-Duluth had offered Koskie a full-ride scholarship to play goalie and he had already red-shirted a year for the Bisons' volleyball team led by head coach Garth Pischke. But baseball wouldn't go away, and for some reason that not even Koskie can explain, he ended up choosing it over the other sports.
"Out of the blue, this baseball coach from a junior college in Boone, Iowa, called me every single day, starting in the middle of May. I told him, 'No, I'm not interested,' but he called me every single day until I said yes," said the first Manitoba-born-and-raised player to make it to Major League Baseball. "I took out a student loan and went out and played college baseball in Boone, Iowa. No idea why I did it, no idea how I did it, but I went for it."
Koskie said the decision to pack his bags and leave town to play baseball was completely out of character for him. He never expected the decision would lead to a career playing pro ball.
"I just remember being so torn because I wanted to play volleyball. All my best friends in the world were playing volleyball. I committed to Garth and told him I'd play, but something deep down made me want to play baseball. I just remember going outside one night and I sat under the stars and prayed. I said 'What do I do here, Lord? This is a tough decision.'"
Koskie said when he woke up the next morning, he felt he needed to go play baseball. His parents supported the decision and soon after, he found himself playing ball at Des Moines Area Community College. In his one year at the school, he was named a second team all-American. He went on to play at the National Baseball Institute in Vancouver before being selected by the Twins in the 26th round of the 1994 MLB Draft.
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After a couple years in the minors, he made his major league debut for the Twins in 1998. He went on to play the next seven years in Minnesota. He played for the Toronto Blue Jays in 2005 and the Milwaukee Brewers in 2006 before suffering a concussion in July that cost him the rest of that season and the next, effectively ending his career.
Koskie played 989 games in the bigs and finished with a career batting average of .275. He was inducted into the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame in 2013 and the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 2015.
"To me, it was just really cool hearing the stories of the athletes," said Koskie on his hall of fame inductions. "Everybody has a story as to how they got to the top of their world."
That is true, but not many can say they have a story as unique as Koskie's.
Taylor Allen Reporter
Eighteen years old and still in high school, Taylor got his start with the Free Press on June 1, 2011. Well, sort of.
Hall Call is a weekly podcast series hosted by Taylor Allen that shares the stories of local sport icons by interviewing members of the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame.
Taylor will talk to a new member every week, with a story featured in the Saturday edition of the Winnipeg Free Press and an hour-long podcast interview. The series can be found online at wfp.to/hallcall. You can also visit the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame inside the Sport for Life Centre building located at 145 Pacific Ave.
To hear more about Corey Koskie's career, including his improbable journey from Anola to the Major Leagues, why he had to spend $100 before his first career MLB game, pranking David Ortiz, his favourite memory of Roy Halladay, why his time with the Blue Jays was disappointing, playing at the World Baseball Classic for Team Canada, the concussion that ended his career, having a field named after him in Winnipeg, and much more — listen to the podcast.