A fan favorite in Philly, Hoskins aims to connect with new city

January 30th, 2024

This story was excerpted from Adam McCalvy’s Brewers Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

MILWAUKEE -- With their deal with , the Brewers not only landed the best free-agent fit for a team in need of a first baseman and right-handed pop. 

They also added one of baseball’s good guys. 

Hoskins was as beloved in Philadelphia for his connection to the community as he was for his memorable home runs, starting with 18 of them in 50 games during a magical rookie showing in 2017 -- a bright spot for a Phillies franchise that hadn’t been to the postseason since 2011. 

Now, Hoskins is hoping to win over a new fan base with the Brewers. 

“The people of Philadelphia opened their arms wide open for me and my family when we first got there in 2017,” Hoskins said this week. “It felt pretty easy to connect with that group in Philly. We found different ways in the community, but also accessing fans in different ways, whether at the stadium before games or in Spring Training. We had a lot of fun with that. 

“Obviously, we did a little more winning, too. That always helps when you’re trying to become a fan favorite. So, us being able to make an impact within the city, [it takes] some good play on the field, a couple of home runs and a lot of winning. That will help us do that.”

Early last year, my MLB.com colleague Todd Zolecki wrote this about Hoskins’ connection to the fans

Few players have cared more about the Phillies or the city than Hoskins over the past 20 years. As soon as he got called up, he asked the Phillies to connect him with the Muscular Dystrophy Association’s Philadelphia chapter. The MDA is a cause near and dear to Rhys and Jayme Hoskins**. He soon started making countless appearances for various Phillies causes.

Hoskins almost always said yes, only saying no if he had a scheduling conflict. He spoiled the Phillies in the winter because he and Jayme bought a home in the city and spent a few offseasons there. Most players never spend winters in Philly.

“I was committed,” Hoskins said. “I was committed to the organization. I wanted to learn what this city was about.”

I remember when the Braves eliminated the Phillies from the postseason in September 2018. After the elimination game in Atlanta, a few players laughed and joked as they dressed. They must have had big plans that night in Buckhead.

A few feet away, Hoskins remained in uniform, his head buried in his locker. Eventually, he stood up and spoke to reporters about the disappointment. Hoskins cared. It showed again when the Phillies clinched the third National League Wild Card in Houston last October. Hoskins had tears in his eyes as he did a postgame interview.

Eleven days later, Hoskins enjoyed an all-time Phillies moment when he homered in Game 3 of the NLDS. It was poetic. Hoskins heard boos during pregame introductions because he started the postseason 1-for-19 with a costly error in Game 2. He heard more jeers after a first-inning strikeout.

But not everybody can handle Philly. Rhys can.

Hoskins remained committed to the city as he spent last season in rehab mode, felled by a torn ACL in his left knee during last year’s Spring Training. The timing was terrible, with free agency on the horizon, but Hoskins stayed connected to the club and, with Jayme, hosted his “Go Yard” event as scheduled in June, benefitting MDA. 

MDA account director of signature events Amanda Sweet told MLB.com that Rhys and Jayme Hoskins probably attended 40 or more MDA events over the years, raising $1 million for the cause. Rhys and Jayme routinely visited MDA summer camps in Blue Bell, Pa., without fanfare or press coverage. The couple did “anything and everything I ever asked for to support MDA,” Sweet said. “Couldn’t be more humble or enthusiastic to help, and it completely changed the Muscular Dystrophy Association’s presence and reach in the Delaware Valley.” 

By the time he hosted his final “Go Yard” event, Hoskins had delivered some signature moments for the Phillies, topped by that homer off the Braves’ Spencer Strider in the 2022 NLDS and his epic bat slam. Jayme was in Europe for her sister’s wedding that day but made it back for the NL Championship Series against the Padres, and she made her presence felt by buying 50 beers for Philly fans prior to Game 5 at Citizens Bank Park.

Perhaps it pleased the baseball gods, because Rhys hit a two-run home run in the third inning and Bryce Harper delivered a game-winning shot in the eighth that sent the Phillies to the World Series. 

So Jayme bought 50 more beers before Game 3 against the Astros, and the Phillies won again. She repeated the ritual for Games 4 and 5. 

“It got kind of carried away,” Jayme told MLB.com. “Obviously, the players have a whole different level to it, but we’re right there watching it all and feeling it all. It’s crazy. It was truly a wild experience that I still get emotional thinking about.”

Now, Hoskins will get to know a new community. He said he expects to be full-go by the time Spring Training games begin.