Monday, September 13, 2010

If You Didn't Love Phil Coke Already, You Will Now

Phil Coke has already endeared himself to most Detroit fans. If, however, you are someone who has not yet fallen for the adorable, gregarious hurler, I have evidence that will have you head over heels.

Coke was not supposed to pitch in yesterday's finale against the O's. He had been drilled by a ball on Friday. Leyland's plan was to rest him. However, Coke told the skip he was ready to go if needed for Sunday. That should get you started down a path of Coke adoration right there. He's a gamer. Listen to this quote. "I always want the ball," Coke said. "I don't care if I'm missing a limb, I want the ball. If I'm able to go out there and throw the ball over the plate and get the job done, then that's what I'm here for. That's my job. I want to be effective and able to do my job. Luckily, I was given the opportunity." He always wants the ball. Even if a limb has inexplicably gone missing, he wants the ball. Enough said. It reminds me of my son. He ALWAYS wants the ball, too. In his league, pitchers were limited to six innings per week to protect young arms. One game, my son had already pitched three innings. Coach was going to put another pitcher in to start the next inning. My son stubbornly walked to the mound anyway, hoping he'd persuade his coach to let him pitch at least one inning more. I laughed, but I guess that's a good quality for a pitcher.

When Coke got the final out in the 9th inning on Sunday, the emotion was palpable. Check out the description by's Alex DeFillipo. "And as soon as home-plate umpire Derryl Cousins rang up Pie, Coke howled out a scream that seemed so loud it could be heard in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

"I was really fired up," Coke said. "I was really, really fired up, especially after stinking the other night. I got hit, it hurt and I was upset." Coke takes every mistake to heart. I mean, really, really to heart. He shoulders blame like a regular pack mule. Personal responsibility is like Phil Coke's credo or something. He doesn't look outside himself. It HURTS when he gets hit around. He's not just out there to collect that paycheck. It's impossible not to love that.

On top of it all, Coke is just a fun, entertaining individual. I sat a few rows behind the bullpen one night, and Coke was out there interacting and laughing it up with fans, talking to the bullpen police officer, just acting like a regular guy. A friend of mine worked a baseball camp at which Brennan Boesch and Phil Coke appeared. She said that Boesch was friendly, but very reserved, but that Coke was funny, engaging and talkative. No surprise there. Coke exudes approachability.

If none of this has caught your heart, just watch Coke sprint, I mean shoot like a cannon, out of the bullpen his next outing. It's absolutely impossible not to smile at the sight of it.

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