Former Phillies prospect still battling

Mike Costanzo was living the dream when the Phillies took him in the second round of the 2005 Draft. Things didn't work out for him in the Phillies organization, but he did reach the majors last season with Cincinnati and he's still fighting his way back for a return visit.

In June of 2005, the Phillies sat through the first round of the draft without having any work to do. They had signed pitcher Jon Lieber over the winter, meaning that the Phillies had to sacrifice their first-round pick to the New York Yankees.

When their first pick of the draft - the 65th overall pick - finally came around, Costanzo got the call that he was hoping would come. Having grown up as a Phillies fan, Costanzo was hopeful that there would be someway he would wind up in their organization.

Since then, Costanzo has gone from being a Phillies prospect to being an Astros prospect, an Orioles prospect, a Reds prospect and now, a Nationals prospect. Along the way, Costanzo made his major league debut wearing a Cincinnati Reds uniform.

The trip to the majors couldn't have been more ironic. Costanzo was called up when former Phillies third baseman Scott Rolen went on the disabled list and he got the news that he was going up from another former Phillies third baseman, David Bell.

"It was kind of weird the way it all played out," said Costanzo. "I was so glad to just be going to the majors that nothing really hit me about it until later."

Just as his minor league career hasn't gone the way he had hoped, Costanzo's one shot in the majors didn't go as hoped either. Costanzo got just 18 at-bats over 17 games and managed just one hit for an .056 average. He's hoping for a return trip with hopes of pulling that number up to a more acceptable level.

"I was hot and they gave me a call. I didn't do as well as I wanted to, but it just prepared me, hopefully, for the next time that I get called up," said Costanzo of the experience. "It was actually more than I expected. The guys were great and made me feel at home and I'll always remember that."

This past winter, Costanzo found himself unemployed and eventually signed with the Nationals as a minor league free agent. This spring, rather than being in camp from start to finish, Costanzo played for Italy in the World Baseball Classic and is thankful for that opportunity.

"It was an unbelievable experience. It's up there with my call-up; the experiences and the intensity and playing with some great guys, it was just awesome," related Costanzo.

Looking back over his career, the 29-year old Costanzo remembers a time when he seriously considered giving up his dream of playing in the majors.

"It [giving up] crept into my head a little bit in 2010 when I got released by the Orioles," admitted Costanzo. "But I've got a good support system at home with my wife and my son and my parents and sister and they kept me on track. You just have to have tunnel vision and keep your eye on the goal and you get what you want."

Having been away from the Nationals to play in the WBC, Costanzo is still getting used to all of his teammates and his season is just three games old, but already, he's made an impact for the Syracuse Chiefs when he hit a grand slam against Lehigh Valley to help put away an 11-0 win for his new team against the Triple-A team from his original organization.

In thinking about that grand slam, a smile came over Costanzo's face. "Yeah, it felt kind of good," he admitted. "I'm actually not bitter towards the Phillies. I'm disappointed though. Obviously, I wanted to reach the majors with them, but I understand and things just didn't work out that way."

In 2007, Costanzo had a huge year with at Double-A Reading, hitting a career-high 27 home runs and driving in a career-high 86 runs, while hitting .270 for the R-Phils. As a reward, the Phillies sent Costanzo to the Arizona Fall League and he remembers getting a call from Ruben Amaro Jr.

"Ruben called and just said 'we've traded you to Houston' and I just said 'oh, my gosh.' I was a little bummed, because I was a huge Phillies fan," laughed Costanzo.

Then, just 34 days later, Costanzo got another phone call. This time, he was told he was part of a deal that sent him to Baltimore.

"It was a crazy time, going to another organization and it all happened while I was playing in the Fall League, so it was crazy, but it all worked out," said Costanzo.

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