'Not everybody can handle Philly': Rhys' connection to city, fans

March 26th, 2023

This story was excerpted from Todd Zolecki’s Phillies Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click hereAnd subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

sounded genuinely upbeat a couple of weeks ago as he discussed what might be his final season with the Phillies.

“It’s exciting because of what we have in front of us,” he said.

Hoskins’ optimistic view should not have surprised anybody. He has been a positive force in the Phillies’ clubhouse since he made his debut in 2017, instantly becoming one of the most well-respected and well-liked players in the organization by everyone -- teammates, coaches, clubhouse attendants, front office executives and more.

Hoskins got to Clearwater, Fla., this spring knowing the Phillies might not re-sign him once he reached free agency following the season. But rather than make things uncomfortable, rather than sulk in the clubhouse because Dave Dombrowski had not approached him about a contract extension, he did what he always does: He put the team first. He worked hard. He had fun.

Hoskins tore his left ACL during Thursday’s game. His season is finished. His Phillies career might be, too. It will be a shame if it ends this way.

Hoskins burst onto the scene in 2017, smashing 18 home runs in his first 34 games. Fans viewed him as a beacon of hope for a franchise that had not made the postseason since 2011. It would have been too much to expect Hoskins to maintain that homer-happy pace, but sometimes it felt like many did. Hoskins could be streaky. He struggled defensively at times. I always thought he received a disproportionate amount of criticism for his shortcomings, relative to how well he hit and how important he was to the team’s success.

Since Hoskins’ debut on Aug. 10, 2017, he is 12th in baseball in home runs (148) and 16th in RBIs (405). Among 527 qualified hitters, he is tied for 53rd in on-base percentage (.353), 43rd in slugging percentage (.492) and tied for 38th in OPS (.846).

He provided top-shelf offensive production in a city that expects nothing less.

“Not everybody can handle Philly,” a highly-regarded baseball man said recently, when asked about Hoskins’ future in Philadelphia. “Rhys can.”

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.

He stepped into the batter’s box in the third inning and crushed a first-pitch fastball off Spencer Strider to left-center field for a three-run home run. Hoskins raised his arms. He spiked his bat. Everybody went nuts.

Hoskins resurrected Red October in that moment. Nobody deserved the opportunity or the feeling more than him.