AMATEUR BASEBALL: Former Twin Corey Koskie soaking in town ball experience

LORETTO – Corey Koskie was a fan favorite for the Minnesota Twins during his seven-year career with the team. Now after 15 years, the former Twin is back on the baseball diamond once again, but this time around, in Loretto Larks jersey playing town ball baseball.

Koskie has two sons (Bradley and Joshua) on the team, and after some convincing from his oldest son, decided this would be the year he returned to baseball and play for the Larks.

“Both Bradley and Joshua have been playing with the Larks,” Koskie said. “Bradley has been on me for a while to join. With two of them playing now, I thought it would be a good time to go and play. I have another one coming up right below him that will play next year so I wanted to get my feet wet a little bit this year.”

Koskie was certainly around the Larks through the season before he joined. After a matchup with the Delano A’s, he approached Loretto manager Kent Koch with the thought of suiting up.

“That’s one of the cooler parts,” Koch said. “When he first approached my dad and me after the Delano game this year, he said he was kind of interested in playing. My dad and I looked at each other wondering how serious was this.”

It was serious.

Koskie officially joined the team shortly before the signing deadline. In fact, it came down to the very last day to get him on the roster.

“We had to jump through a few hoops to make sure we had all the documentation we needed to get the state board approval,” Koch said. “It literally came down to the final day of the signing deadline. We got the paperwork submitted and he got his four games in to be eligible for the postseason. Then we had to decide where we’re going to put him in the lineup.”

Koskie made his debut for the Larks July 7 in a home game against the Montrose-Waverly Stingers. He found himself in the No. 6 spot as things started to get real for him as he was about to play his first game in 15 years.

“I didn’t know what to expect,” Koskie said. “I hadn’t picked up a bat in 15 years. My concern was running to first base. I didn’t want to get hurt. I had no really expectations going in. I didn’t want to embarrass myself. I wanted to enjoy it for what it is.”

Koskie’s debut for the Larks was a success. He finished the game going 2-for-2 with a home run, two walks, and four RBI in a 10-0 win for the Larks.

“I kind of surprised myself my first game,” Koskie said. “I was on base every time and my legs were pretty tired and all I did was DH and run a bit. I wanted to go out there and enjoy the experience and play with my kids with no pressure. Just go up there and hit and have fun while enjoying it. I didn’t want to deal with uber-competitive people on the other side. I didn’t want to deal with egos and hurt feelings. I just wanted to have fun and enjoy it.”

Koskie’s transition to town ball has been a unique one. He’s known about the game since his playing days with the Twins, and now being able to be part of it again with his kids is something he’s enjoying.

“I’ve known about town ball,” Koskie said. “Dave St. Peter is a big component of town ball. I’ve played in some exhibition games right after I retired. I was able to see the quality of baseball and the parks in these small little towns. It was really cool.”

While the knowledge of town ball has been there for a while, there’s one thing that surprised him in the first season. He knew the level of talent would be there, but the amount of competitiveness in each game is something that came as a surprise to the former major leaguer.

“Here are the things that surprised me about town ball,” Koskie said. “These guys take it seriously. This isn’t beer league baseball. This is serious baseball. Guys take it really seriously and they compete. That’s kind of one thing that did surprise me.”

The season for Koskie has been filled with ups and downs. While he’s experienced the different side of things so far this season, it’s been a learning experience throughout.

“It’s taken a little bit of a transition,” Koskie said.  “For not playing for 15 years, I’m just trying to get comfortable. I wasn’t really knowing what to expect. I just wanted to play with my boys. I wasn’t really ready for competitive at-bats and meaningful at-bats. I didn’t want to be the reason why the team didn’t get to go to where they wanted to go. It’s one of those things to get comfortable with failure again and just playing with the kids. It took a little bit for me to get set.”

Coming back to the game after 15 years away from it hasn’t been easy for Koskie. He’ll be the first to tell you.

“There’s really no such thing as going out and playing pickup baseball with the guys,” Koskie said. “You’re playing town ball. You’re in front of people playing at 10 percent of the ability that you had. There’s the ego and pride thing that goes into that. You want to compete. You don’t want to get beat. At the end of the day, baseball is a battle. It’s you against the pitcher. The pitcher against you. Who’s going to win that? That’s the core of an at-bat.”

Koskie’s approach at the plate has been different as well. In the prime of his career, focusing during an at-bat has been one of his biggest strengths. Now 15 years later, he’s had to work on that more than he normally has.

“I had a 15-year lag between at-bats,” Koskie said. “It doesn’t come as natural for me. It’s somewhat fascinating. One thing I find super interesting is the ability to focus during an at-bat. The ability to completely focus 100 percent of your focal energy on the pitcher and be able to block out all the sounds and be able to control your mind, your thoughts, and your breathing to give you the best chance to have a quality swing. That’s something I was able to do. Now, I come back and my head is all over the place. When I played before, I was laser-focused and nothing could distract me at that moment. Now it’s a little easier to get distracted.”

While Koskie certainly hasn’t been perfect by any means for the Larks, he’s come through in some big spots for the Larks this year. In the Region 12C Tournament, Koskie delivered the game-tying RBI single in the top of the ninth. His team would go on to win the game in 12 innings, thanks to the baseball gods being on their side.

Buffalo had the chance to win the game in the bottom of the ninth, but the ball got stuck in the ivy on the right-field fence, holding the game-winning run at third. Loretto would get out of the jam and later on win the game in the 12th.

“The ball that got stuck in the ivy is semi reminiscent of the ball I hit in the playoffs against the Yankees off of Mariano Rivera,” Koskie said. “I hit one down the line and it bounced out. We would have taken the lead in the top of the 9th in that one. The ball bounced out instead of rattling around in the corner and it costs us a run. That was good for us that the ball got stuck in the ivy because they for sure would have scored that run.”

Dealing with success and failure is part of baseball. Koskie knows that full well and that’s helped him keep a positive attitude even when his swing might not be there.

“If you really want to get a hit and you don’t get a hit, the feeling you get sucks,” Koskie said. “There’s frustration and you really want to get a hit and don’t get one for eight or 10 at-bats. People don’t understand how hard that is to deal with from a mental standpoint. Baseball is the only game where you’re forced to deal with failure. No other game is like that.  I’m a 10th of who I was 10 years ago.”

Throughout the year, Koskie has been a nice addition to the lineup for the Larks at the plate and in the dugout. Whether it’s coming through with a base hit or just lending some advice to a teammate, Koskie’s presence is a big reason the Larks are where they are at.

“He’s definitely a nice bat to add in the lineup,” Koch said. “Both on and off the field, he’s just a real wealth of information and fun guy to sit around and talk to. He’s always trying to help out or give tips. He’s been helpful to have around in a coach-type role as well. He’s still the guy who comes in and works hard in the cage. It’s been fun to see him come through in some big situations. Hearing the ball come off his bat sometimes it just comes off a little different than anybody else. He’s been awesome to have. He’s always joking around and having fun with the guys on the bench. He’s an all-around good guy to have around.”

For veteran Tyler Maher, the season has been one to remember. After watching Koskie play growing up to now sharing a dugout with him, this season has been one to remember.

“It’s been awesome playing with Corey,” Maher said. “Not only because it’s one of the players I watched growing up, but just being an overall great human being.  He has unique perspectives on the game and has a wealth of knowledge. Typically, if you want any of that info, you just have to ask him. Having him on our team, with his experience and overall character has elevated the level of play from everyone.”

Koch has also got to experience playing amateur baseball with his family. It’s something special that he’s getting to see a former Koskie do that now right in front of him.

“They’ve gotten to play a few games together now,” Koch said. “There’s been a few times in the lineup where Corey has been hitting in front of Bradley or behind him. There are a few times he’s hit him in. When you get to drive in your younger kid with a base hit, that’s just a cool story in general. It’s just a cool thing when it’s family like that.”

Loretto will kick off their state tournament run Friday night in Chaska as they take on the Dumont Saints. With a taste of amateur baseball under his belt, Koskie is now excited to see what the state tournament brings as he’ll be playing alongside his boy this weekend.

“I don’t know what to expect,” Koskie said. “I’m really excited to see this. My kids have been playing in state tournaments throughout their whole youth sports experience. I’m excited to be part of this state tournament run hopefully and to see what that experience is.”

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