For Rhys, Little League Classic like going home

Phils slugger discusses youth baseball memories, excitement of LLWS

August 16th, 2018

PHILADELPHIA -- For , this weekend in Williamsport, Pa., will spark memories of California summer nights, of little fields and big dreams, of free snow cones for all. That was the policy at Whitney Little League outside Sacramento and five minutes from Hoskins' childhood home, where the future Phillies cleanup hitter first swung for chain-link fences. Every player earned an icy postgame treat, win, lose or draw.

"That was a mandatory thing. Everyone was pumped about that," Hoskins said. "We had four fields and the snack shack in the middle."

These are the images that stick like sugar in Hoskins' mind when he's asked about his amateur days. He's as fond of them as anyone, especially with Sunday's second annual Little League Classic just days away. Hoskins knows just the Major Leaguers' presence at Bowman Field will offer kids an experience he couldn't imagine at that age.

:: Little League Classic presented by GEICO ::

"I watched [the Little League World Series] as a kid every year, dreaming of being in it, just thinking how cool it would be to even be on TV, not even really knowing the magnitude of it," Hoskins said. "I remember growing up and hearing my Little League was the Little League that [former All-Star] Derrek Lee played at. It was pretty cool that I was in the same Little League of what at the time was one of the best hitters in baseball. … Every time I was flipping through the channels, I watched [the Cubs] until Derrek Lee hit."

This Sunday, Hoskins and his teammates will enter the lives of a host of Little Leaguers on an even more personal level. Before strapping on their spikes for the finale of a five-game series against the Mets, the Phillies will exchange pins with a group of Little Leaguers, then ride buses with them to the International Grove, where players in the annual tournament lodge.

It's these smaller moments Hoskins hopes they remember as much as whatever happens between the white lines. He pauses and pictures his sister, Meloria, chasing after foul balls at Whitney, "just to have them." He chuckles at the fact that he once hit two home runs after learning he'd broken his hand on a baserunning play.

The scenes both stand out and blend together, intertwined in the haze of a simpler time -- and suddenly relevant to the immediate future.

"It's kind of refreshing to go back and see the pure joy on these kids' faces, knowing they're just playing a game and are out there to have as much fun as they can," Hoskins said. "People are competitive, but at the end of the day, it's cool to see the sportsmanship, the handshakes. You see kids hanging out between the games. Little things like that put it back in perspective."