Why the Phils salute the 'pen during home run trots

October 3rd, 2023

PHILADELPHIA -- Bryce Harper needed to make a call.

He homered into the home bullpen at Citizens Bank Park on July 15, but he forgot to show love to Phillies relievers as he rounded first base. So after Harper touched home plate, he picked up the phone in the dugout and expressed his regrets to bullpen coach Dave Lundquist, who relayed the message to his pitchers. Everybody laughed.

“I’ve done that before,” Harper said.

The Phillies hit 220 home runs this season, the second most in franchise history. They hit 59 in August, the most in any single month in franchise history. The Phils are 79-44 (.642) when they go deep this season, so they hope the homers keep coming in the postseason as they try to win the World Series. The journey starts Tuesday night with the best-of-three National League Wild Card Series against Miami. If the Phillies homer in Game 1 -- or any time during the playoffs -- you will see them salute the bullpen with a finger point or a hand gesture.

It is a tradition started in June 2018. It is a tradition that has spread across baseball.

It will be seen throughout the postseason.

“That’s a Rhys thing,” Kyle Schwarber said. “Rhys started that. He started that forever ago.”

“Rhys was the guy,” Harper said. “I don’t remember anybody doing it before him. But a lot of teams are giving love to the bullpen now.”

Hoskins might not play for the Phillies this postseason because he is recovering from left ACL surgery in March. But there is hope. Manager Rob Thomson said there is a chance Hoskins could return for the World Series.

The dream is Hoskins steps to the plate in the Fall Classic, pulls a Kirk Gibson and helps the Phillies win a game.

“It’d be huge to get him back,” Schwarber said. “He’s done such a great job throughout the whole year. He’s doing everything he’s supposed to do and more. He held his charity event. He’s in the dugout every day with the boys. He’s been a big part of our success. Not just everything he’s done on the field, but the things he brings to the clubhouse, the things he brings to the bench.”

And the cool thing he brought to home run trots across baseball.

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Is there any way of saying with 100 percent certainty that Hoskins started this tradition more than five years ago?

No, not with 100 percent certainty.

But 95 percent certainty? Absolutely.

“I don’t know how you’d prove it,” Hoskins said. “But watching highlights from other teams, I’m noticing it. Everybody is doing something toward the bullpen.”

Hoskins hit 18 home runs in 50 games as a rookie in 2017. He hit six in his first 52 games in '18, before he broke his jaw on May 28 when he fouled a pitch off his face at Dodger Stadium.

Hoskins spent 10 days on the injured list, then returned to action on June 9 against the Brewers at Citizens Bank Park. He hit a three-run home run to left field in the third inning against Brent Suter. Before he reached second base, Hoskins looked toward the Phillies’ bullpen in right-center field. He flashed the rock ‘n' roll salute, with his index and pinkie fingers pointed up and his middle two fingers and thumb folded in.

The entire bullpen responded by giving the horns back to him.

“It started because Hector [Neris] and I had an interaction in the clubhouse after a game,” Hoskins said. “I specifically remember standing by the iPad where we play the music. We were blasting some rock. Hector came up to me all excited and gave me one of these.”

Hoskins flashed the rock ‘n' roll horns.

“I think the next day, I hit a home run,” Hoskins said. “I looked out and he’s going nuts in the bullpen. So I just gave it back.”

Hoskins flashed the rock ‘n' roll horns again.

“It just kind of stuck,” Hoskins said.

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Relievers are people, too, even though, as Hoskins said, “We cage them out there.”

That’s why Neris loved Hoskins’ salute so much.

“He started doing it to the bullpen because I told him, ‘Hey, the bullpen matters,’” Neris said. “The bullpen counts. Every homer, you have to point to the bullpen.’ I love it. It’s a pride thing. Everybody be together.”

Adam Morgan made 67 appearances for the 2018 Phillies. He remembers the bullpen going crazy whenever Hoskins homered and saluted them.

“It is very prevalent now,” Morgan said. “It’s all over the place. Everybody’s doing it. Everybody is saluting the bullpen, which is awesome because we’re kind of out there by ourselves. It’s cool because it always kept us in the game. Keeping us incorporated was cool.

“I know in my heart he was the first one to do it.”

Hoskins’ current teammates agree. Harper joined the Phillies in 2019. Schwarber joined in '22. Asked if new players are told to salute the bullpen whenever they homer, they said no.

They just know.

“It’s just standard,” Schwarber said.

Everybody has their own salute. Some players point. Schwarber, like Hoskins, flashes the rock ‘n' roll horns.

“I’m a Rhyser,” he said. “Give out the love, baby.”