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Invisible hand guides Koskie Add to ...

This is no Little House on the Prairie.

Laura Ingalls Wilder may have lived 150 kilometres to the southwest, but Ma and Pa didn't have wall-size colour televisions on two floors, fireplace stone imported from Mission, B.C., and an indoor batting cage in a basement gymnasium. Never mind a Starbucks nearby.

"And I talked to this guy," Corey Koskie says as he shows a visitor around in the rambling, warm home of earth tones and tiles, "who works for the company that makes the artificial turf for the SkyDome [recently renamed Rogers Centre]

"He says he can get me a patch for the backyard [baseball field] Plus a cover so I can freeze it over in the winter [for an outdoor rink]"This is a slice of prairie paradise for Koskie. The native of Anola, Man., looks out the living-room windows in his country home and sees rolling hills of grasses, covered on this warm, winter day with a dusting of snow. Sometimes, wild turkeys take a shortcut through the backyard.

Koskie, who arrived in Dunedin, Fla., yesterday as the new third baseman of the Toronto Blue Jays, and his wife, Shannon, designed this home for their burgeoning family -- sons Joshua, 2, Bradley, 4, and a baby due in June.

"You think about all this and . . . I mean, to be able to just go downstairs and take batting practice with your kids," Koskie says, fiddling with the netting of the batting cage as Joshua whips around on a scooter.

On this weekend, the Minnesota Twins are holding their annual fan festival. Koskie won't be participating, but he did step out earlier in the day for a farewell luncheon with Twins owner Carl Pohlad, and there's talk of a pickup basketball game in his basement. Maybe Michael Cuddyer, who is taking Koskie's spot at third base for the Twins, will drop by to shoot hoops. Brad Radke, too.

Koskie looks forward to seeing them because none of them live in the Twin Cities during the winter.

Really? No Twins live in the Twin Cities?

"Nope," Koskie says matter-of-factly. "Just Corey."

Koskie is the son of a railway car man who also farmed in Anola, a community of 300 about 20 minutes east of Winnipeg. Koskie followed the Blue Jays as a child, but he would have happily finished his career in Minnesota, and his wife, a native of Vancouver, would have settled for the Seattle Mariners.

The Koskies took out a newspaper advertisement thanking Twins fans just days after he signed a three-year, $16.5-million (all figures U.S.) free-agent contract with the Blue Jays, a key part of general manager J. P. Ricciardi's plan to replace some of the offence lost by the departure of free-agent first baseman Carlos Delgado.

"It was a matter of separating wanting to play for the team from wanting to play for the community," said Koskie, 31, a left-handed hitter.

"We prayed about it, because we wanted the Lord to make it really clear to us where he wanted us to be.

"I felt I wanted to be in Toronto. I knew Shannon wanted Seattle. She wasn't keen on Toronto, but through the process and through the praying, I think her heart kind of turned."

The Koskies are devout, but in a non-proselytizing way. Prayer was an important part of the decision because Koskie's investment in the Twins goes way beyond his house or the seven years in which he hit 101 home runs, drove in 437 runs and played on three American League Central Division winners.

Canadians came in from the cold in major-league baseball a long time ago. It's nothing for a Canadian, Jason Bay of Trail, B.C., to be chosen as the National League rookie of the year last season. A year earlier, another Canadian, Éric Gagné of Mascouche, Que., won the NL Cy Young Award. Pitchers Jeff Francis of Vancouver and Adam Loewen of Surrey, B.C., were first-round draft choices in recent years, and Larry Walker of Maple Ridge, B.C., has most valuable player awards and All-Star-Game appearances.

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