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Bisons to honor 2 ex-players, scorer

Former Bisons infielder Greg LaRocca, ex-Buffalo catcher/utility man Chris Coste and long-time Bisons associate and official scorer Kevin Lester have been elected to the Buffalo Baseball Hall of Fame, the team has announced.

The trio will be inducted prior to the game against Columbus on July 17 in Coca-Cola Field. Their election will push the Hall’s membership to 94. Plaques for the honorees hang in the ballpark’s Hall of Fame Room and Pettibone’s Grille.

LaRocca played in 300 games for the Bisons from 2001-2003, compiling a .295 batting average while playing staunch defense at second and third base. He’s fourth in the modern era in doubles (73) and seventh in hits (324). He batted .290 or better in each of his three seasons, helping the Bisons to the playoffs in 2001 and 2002.

LaRocca batted .310 in 61 games in ‘01 as Buffalo won a modern era-record 91 games and took the International League North Division title. In 2002, he hit .293 with 28 doubles and a .402 on-base percentage that was second in the International League over his 107 games. In 2003, LaRocca was Buffalo’s most valuable player after batting .290 with 33 doubles, 10 homers, and 68 RBIs.

LaRocca appeared in 39 major-league games with San Diego and Cleveland, batting .261. After leaving Buffalo in 2003, he spent the next seven years playing in Japan before retiring in 2010.

Coste batted .307 in 230 games with Buffalo from 2000-2002, an average that’s fourth on the modern-era list. He totaled 50 doubles, 19 home runs and 125 RBIs. A free agent signee out of independent league ball by Cleveland, he batted .302 for the Herd in 2000 after his promotion from Double-A Akron and .288 in 2001. He was named Buffalo’s MVP and an IL all-star in 2002 when he batted .307 with 32 doubles, eight homers and 67 RBIs in 124 games. He was predominantly a catcher with the Bisons, but played plenty of first base and even was called upon to serve as a disaster pitcher, winning a 16-inning game in Syracuse in 2002.

Coste made his big-league debut with Philadelphia in 2006 after 11 seasons in the minors and played 299 games with the Phillies and Houston from 2006-2009, batting .272. He was also Philadelphia’s designated hitter in Game One of the 2008 World Series at Tampa Bay. Coste even wrote a pair of autobiographies, including the critically acclaimed 2008 book, “The 33-Year-Old Rookie.”

Lester, the longtime athletics director at Williamsville South High School, has been a part of the Bisons organization since 1982, serving as a bullpen catcher and running many of the team’s youth baseball initiatives from 1986-2003. He was even a key extra as a player for the New York Knights in “The Natural” and a catcher for the American League in “Buffalo’s Grand Old Game,” an oldtimers showcase at War Memorial Stadium in 1984.

Lester began as an official scorer for the club in ‘86, a role he continues today as a representative of the IL. He served as a scout for the Pittsburgh Pirates and Kansas City Royals from 1982-89 and became a voting member of the Buffalo Hall in 2003. He was named Section VI Administrator of the Year in 2014, representing Williamsville South and has coached football, baseball, basketball, volleyball and wrestling during his high school career.