We lost a CNY Baseball Legend
Updated: Dec 3, 2019
I remember it well. I was an Air Force brat trying out for the Freshman baseball team at Rome Free Academy. We were all crammed into a tiny gym at the old Fort Stanwix school. That is when I meet Coach Fiore "Fee" DeCosty. He was larger than life to a 9th grader, his voice echoed loudly in that small gym. I didn't know the history of Coach DeCosty - his successful career as a high school and college player (Austin Peay I think he went to...maybe.). I didn't think I had a shot making the team that year with all the Rome kids trying out but I did. I didn't think I would start at 2B with the competition - Mike Bailey and Archi Cianfrocco. And I didn't. Instead he saw something in me and put me in the outfield the day before the first game, and I never left the outfield throughout HS, Legion and College. I learned the fundamentals to be a successful baseball player thanks to the start I was given by Coach. I didn't see him much for the next 9 years but every time I did, he would come right to me and ask how I was doing.
When I came back to Rome after college, he hired me to be his assistant coach at RFA. No one ran a more organized practice than Coach Fee. Everything was so detailed and precise. He put trust in me to help run his team. I remember him letting me coach the Section 3 semi-finals because his son, Fiore, was graduating from West Point. Those 3 years helped me become the coach i am today. I copied so much of what he did in those practices and games. From the "Talking Baseball" song before the games to spending hours in the gym doing "infield angle fielding" drills. I did that drill so much as a coach at Richfield Springs. My players always asked - why so much with this drill? In the 7th inning of the Section 3 title game, we turned a DP to win it and they knew. Coach Fee got me into coaching the LeMoyne baseball camp every summer. It was there where I saw the respect he had outside of Rome. Coaches, high school and college, went to Coach for drills and explanations. Players from all over would sit and listen to every word he said. They would watch everything he showed them and try their best to show him they got it. I know for a fact that he was one of the most respected coaches in the Binghamton area. He would do camps there at U-E with his good friend U-E Baseball Coach Ed Foli. I think I learned more about baseball listening to these coaches talking in casual conversations. The stories were told with passion and love.
After I left RFA and started my program at Richfield Springs, I tried to make a program just like Coach did at RFA. It wasn't easy and I struggled. I even played a game against Coach and it wasn't pretty. After the game, he said a few things to me that changed my approach. He told me to stay the course and go slow. Achieve one goal at a time. I listened to him like I always did. One of the greatest thrills for me was winning my second Sectional title and knowing that he was in the stands at P & C Stadium. He came right over to me and gave me the biggest handshake and hug. That was a special night for the both of us because he won his first Section 3 title that night as well. After he retired from teaching and coaching - he finished his coaching career at Utica College with Don Guido where more players were lucky enough to learn from Coach DeCosty.
After he moved to Florida, I didn't see him (I did get a letter from him once.) After hearing that he was sick, I was saddened because he had horrible form of pancreatic cancer. But Coach Fee had other plans, he wanted to live his life to the fullest and was not going to go down without a struggle. He continued to defy the odds and lived a lot longer than anyone could have imagined. My sadness turned to admiration and inspiration that this larger than life man would not go down without a fight (almost 10 years.) In all the years of speaking with or about, I never could call him Fee. He is and will always be Coach to me. There are only a few coaches that I can say that about. I think the advice he told me years ago on that baseball field in RIchfield Springs he used for everything in his life - "Stay the Course and go slow. Achieve one goal at a time". Rest in Peace Coach DeCosty. You made a difference in my life and so many others. In fact, that was one of his favorite lines instructing players - "See the differences?" I now know what he meant.
Here is a link to a story that was done about him in Florida