CHERRY HILL, N.J. -- Rhys Hoskins has handled new celebrity about as well as anybody could be expected to handle it.
He is trying to enjoy the moment, while remaining true to himself.
"It's supposed to be fun," Hoskins said Monday evening at the Philadelphia Sports Writers Association banquet. "I think that's probably the best approach to take. Enjoy it. I think my thought is, what happened may never happen again. Tomorrow something might happen and tomorrow I might never be able to step on a baseball field again. I think you have to take it by storm and enjoy it."
Hoskins, 24, took baseball by storm late last season, smashing 18 home runs in 50 games, changing his life immeasurably in the process. He's now a fresh young face of a rebuilding organization, becoming more and more recognizable in the city and elsewhere.
"If you were to ask me a year ago if I would be walking down the streets of Philadelphia and people would recognize me, I would probably laugh at you, but that's where we are now," Hoskins said. "I was out to dinner late at night after a game [last season] and I had a little boy and his dad come up to me and congratulate me on the game. That's when I said, OK, this might be something that's about to be a part of my life. It was cool because I used to be that kid."
Hoskins is a face of the organization because he is expected to anchor the Phillies' lineup alongside first baseman Carlos Santana, whose free-agent signing in December moved Hoskins to left field. Hoskins is a first baseman by trade, but played left field upon joining the Phillies in August. He will play there regularly for the foreseeable future.
"The signing of Carlos is exciting for the city, it's exciting for the team," Hoskins said. "We add a guy who's proven himself in this league for five, six years at a very, very high level. To enter that into the lineup and in the clubhouse with such a young team, I think, we're going to feel that exponentially throughout the year. But left field is a challenge. It's a challenge I'm definitely excited about. I started to feel more comfortable out there toward the end of the year. That just comes with reps. That's kind of what I've been focused on since the signing."
Hoskins has spent his offseason in San Diego, although he also spent a few weeks traveling through China and Thailand. He has been working out in left field, throwing to different bases and trying to get a better feel for the position.
He said he plans to arrive in Clearwater, Fla., before the end of the month, a couple weeks before the Phillies officially open camp.
"Just to get as many reps as I can, maybe more one-on-one time with the coaches in left field," Hoskins said. "I think I can be just fine [in left field]. I know I'm not going to be a Gold Glove. I just don't have the speed that some guys out there have, especially in today's game. I think I'll be just fine and contribute to the team defensively as much as I can, make the plays that I'm supposed to make."
That's all Pat Burrell and Raul Ibanez did in left field: Make the plays they were supposed to make. The Phillies are counting on Hoskins, like Burrell and Ibanez, to get on base and drive in runs.
"Absolutely," Hoskins said, when asked if the Phillies are better than they were at the end of last season. "We're older. Experience-wise there's a lot of guys that are still young, for sure. Myself, I've got 50 more games than when I started. I think the new staff is going to bring a lot of energy to the organization. I'm just kind of excited to see how it all pans out."