Rhys Hoskins

‘It's a great chapter of my life': Hoskins reflects on time in Philadelphia ahead of return

NBC Universal, Inc.

It was the same, but not really. Familiar but different. Emotional. Definitely emotional.

Milwaukee Brewers first baseman Rhys Hoskins, who had known no organization other than the Phillies after they drafted him in the fifth round in 2014, sat in the visitor’s dugout at Citizens Bank Park late Monday afternoon, wearing a road uniform and tried to put into words what it meant not to be in red pinstripes anymore.

“I’m excited to see where we’re at competition-wise,” he said, a reference to the series that pairs two first-place teams. “I’m excited for my teammates to see what it’s like to play in this type of atmosphere. But more than anything, excited to see the people I created really good relationships with over the last five, six, seven years.”

After he tore his ACL late in spring training of 2023, after Bryce Harper learned to play first base on the fly and took to it better than anybody could have anticipated, Hoskins could see the writing on the dugout wall. Even as he wished that somehow, some way he could return even though he was a free agent who had been on the injured list the entire season.

“Hopeful. But I’m also smart enough and aware enough to see what was going on,” he said.

So when the call came from Phillies president of baseball operation Dave Dombrowski shortly after the World Series ended, he wasn’t surprised. Harper would remain at first. Kyle Schwarber was the designated hitter. There was no logical spot on the field for him to fill.

“He just kind of brought me through their conversations with Bryce as a front office,” Hoskins said. “Told me the way they were going. I was obviously grateful they didn’t attach a qualifying offer to me. I think it helped me in my free agency. But he was just as transparent as you can get. And I think in this business, that’s all you can ask for.”

The Brewers gave him a 2-year, $34 million contract. They were rolling the dice that he’d produce the 30 or so homers that he did during his six full seasons in Philadelphia. Just as important, they saw him as a strong, steady veteran influence in their clubhouse.

It echoed the Marlins decision to acquire Phillies franchise icon Darren Daulton at the 1996 trade deadline. Manager Jim Leyland later said Florida wouldn’t have won the World Series that year without him.

In Hoskins’ first game on this field since the 2022 World Series he started at designated hitter, batting sixth. The Phillies played a tribute video on Phanvision. When he stepped to the plate for the first time, he was given a prolonged standing ovation. He walked in the fifth, stole a base and was thrown out at the plate trying to score on a single. He homered in the seventh to account for Milwaukee’s only run in a 3-1 loss.

After the homer there were boos mixed in. He wouldn’t have had it any other way.

On the cheers: “It was loud. I got to sneak a peek up towards our family section to see how my wife (Jayme) was doing. It looked like she was probably shedding a couple tears. That’s what this place does. I’m not surprised by it.”

On the boos: “No doubt (there was some satisfaction). Normally you go into a visiting park and you hit a home run and you’re not hearing any cheers. So the mix of boos and cheers was different. It was fun.”

Before Monday night’s game, the tributes from his former teammates were unanimous and heartfelt.

“One of the best teammates I’ve ever had,” said righthander Aaron Nola. “He does everything he can to help the team win. Wants to play every day. I’ve got so much respect for him and what he does.

“He was one of our leaders ever since he stepped into this clubhouse. He just had that voice that everybody listened to and respected.”

Said leftfielder Brandon Marsh: “He was here for a long time and he brought a lot to this city, this team and this organization. He’s an incredible teammate, brother, friend. All of the above. He’s awesome, man.”

Added manager Rob Thomson: “He’s a man’s man. He’s honest. He’s got as lot of integrity. He cares about other people. And he’s a talented player, obviously.”

Hoskins appreciated the compliments.

“This is our profession, our careers. It’s what we’ve chosen to do for our job,” he said. “But, good or bad, the one thing you can hope for is that people respect who you are as a person. Hopefully that means I went about things the right way. I treated people with respect. Had some kindness along the way and made some sort of impact on a group of people and I think that’s something you can hang your hat on.”

When he got into town Sunday night, he and wife Jayme went to Palizzi, their favorite Italian restaurant. Monday they went to the coffee shop close to where they lived.

It was their decision to live in the city year-round that cemented a city connection that is deeper and more durable than any special occasions uniform.

“It helped me gain an understanding of what this place is about,” he reflected. “Specifically, what the Wells Fargo Center is like, what the Linc is like. What the people of Philly are really like, instead of just at the ballpark. I have to believe it made my time here 1,000 percent better. Just an understanding of what makes people here tick. Why they cheer as hard as they do. Why they boo as hard as they do. It seems a little bit different here, and you love that as a player.

“We’d never spent time in a big city like this, coming from a smaller town on the West Coast. It was a chance to explore it. And we ended up loving it so much that we stayed. It’s a great chapter of my life and I have a much different and much more respect for this city and how great it can be.”

It could have turned out differently. What if he hadn’t torn up his knee? What of Harper hadn’t been willing to change positions? No sense in thinking about that. Time only marches forward.

“No hard feelings. No ill will,” he said. “The ending didn’t match the rest of the time here. I don’t know if closure is the right word, but I think (Monday night) will be a nice start for that.”

Subscribe anywhere you get your podcasts:
Apple Podcasts | Youtube Music | Spotify | Stitcher | Art19 | RSSWatch on YouTube

Contact Us