03/12/2022

2022 World Series: Rhys Hoskins, Phillies appreciative of the ride

HOUSTON — On Sept. 26, Rhys Hoskins walked into an Urban Outfitters in Chicago and bought three disposable cameras.

At the time, the Phillies were in free fall. Their hold on the third Wild Card spot was slipping. Even if they held on and snuck into the expanded postseason field, the Phillies did not exactly smell like a club capable of a deep October run. 

But Hoskins felt something in the air. So on that off-day in Chicago, as he and his father waited in line to buy some clothes, he spontaneously grabbed those three cameras from a bin next to the register. 

“I guess I just had a feeling something special was going to happen,” Hoskins said. “I wanted to capture as much of it as I could.”

Capture he did. Over the next few weeks, as the Phillies clinched a postseason berth in Houston, took the Wild Card series in St. Louis and upset the Braves in the NLDS, Hoskins brought his trio of cameras every step of the way. From the clubhouse to the plane to the bus to the field, the club’s long-time first baseman snapped and flashed whenever he felt compelled. 

That was until the pictures ran out.

Hours after Game 4 of the NLDS, Hoskins — his clothes still soggy from the team’s champagne celebration — trudged back into the home dugout and gazed out at the field. The sun had just set, but the night wasn’t yet cold. The sky was in that brief stage between dusk and night, radiating a soft blueish gray. Light pop music echoed across the empty stadium. Players chatted with their families or horsed around with their kids. Bryce Harper chased his son, Krew, around the bases.

Considering where the Phillies had been earlier in the season, 22-29 when Joe Girardi was fired on June 3, it was quite a surreal scene. Unimaginable. Worthy of commemoration. So the first baseman aimed his camera toward the jubilation and pressed down, freezing the moment forever, before putting the disposable back in his pocket.

“Just one?” someone asked from across the dugout.

“That’s my last picture on here,” Hoskins replied.

The longest-tenured Phillies hitter, a guy who slogged through six unrewarding, unsatisfying seasons in The City of Brotherly Love before making the postseason, had quite literally experienced more unforgettable memories than he’d planned for.

“I guess I need to buy some more.” 

The Phillies celebrate heading to the World Series for first time since 2009

The Philadelphia Phillies celebrate advancing to the World Series by popping champagne and singing “Dancing on my Own” by Calum Scott.

You can hear a losing World Series locker room before you can see it. The pitter-patter of dap-ups and hearty bro-hugs, the crisp crack of beer cans opening, a soft buzz of bittersweet goodbyes. The mood is solemn, but grateful.

This scene played out in the visiting locker room at Minute Maid Park Saturday night because at the most inopportune time, the planet’s hottest team froze up. The spark ran out, the tank ran dry, there was only so much pixie dust in the air. A lineup full of free swingers got exposed. 

Over the final 27 innings of their season, the Phillies collected just 10 hits and scored just three runs. All the vibes in the world mean nothing if you don’t hit the baseball. What sunk the Phillies in Games 4 and 5 sank them again in Game 6. Houston‘s talented pitchers shoved, Philly’s talented hitters had little response. And so, the confetti was orange and navy.

The 2022 Phillies were a weird bunch; the good kind of weird. They were the most expensive underdogs in baseball history. But somehow that odd mix of world-famous superstars and just-graduated Lehigh Valley IronPigs came together and made history. Not as much history as they’d hoped, but history nonetheless.

Still, there was a palpable sense of disappointment in the losing locker room. No matter how magical the journey, the end of a season still stings if you don’t reach the destination. Nick Castellanos sat in his locker, staring into space. Hoskins wiped back tears as he addressed the media. Harper donned an all-black Phillies hat, as if in mourning.

But as a whole, the energy was … appreciative. Appreciative of one another, appreciative of what they’d accomplished as a group, appreciative of how damn enjoyable the ride was. Multiple players remarked how it was easily the most fun they’d ever had playing the game they’d known their whole lives. 

“It’s like the baseball you played your whole life but on steroids.” Phillies catcher J.T. Realmuto explained. “Everything’s more exciting. Winning is so much more fun, losing hurts that much more. All the emotions are so up and down and so extreme. But it’s the most fun I’ve ever had.”

Even in defeat, the Phillies still enjoyed themselves, albeit in a more reserved manner. Kyle Schwarber conducted a 10-minute interview with a Coors Light tucked into the waistband of his sliding shorts. And as the media began to filter out, a group of players congregated in a circle in the back corner of the room to drink brews, tell stories about the year and hold on to that feeling as long as possible. Rebellion against the finality of a season’s inevitable conclusion.

“Yo Vierling,” one player quipped. “Remember when Pujols signed that bat for you.”

Matt Vierling, a St. Louis kid and huge childhood Pujols fan, nodded back.

“Man, he signed that bat for you and you rewarded him by ending his career. That’s tough.”

The group burst out laughing.

Garrett Stubbs, the team’s backup catcher/vibe geyser/head bench cheerleader, his voice hoarse from a month’s worth of encouragement, stood up and asked if anybody needed a drink. One player remarked that he’d take 30. Stubbs returned with a precipitously oversized armful of cans, like a kid carrying too many toy blocks, offering refreshments to anybody interested.

It couldn’t have been more 2022 Phillies. The only thing missing was a sad acoustic version of “Dancing on My Own.”

Instead, they filled the silence with chatter. More stories. More ribbing. More jokes. More statements about how excited they were for next year. How they’d be back. 

One of the members in the circle was Hoskins, the area around his eyes still red with disappointment. His rough defensive showing and brutal 3-for-21 World Series line has been the bane of many Philly fan’s recent existence. But years from now, the image of Hoskins chucking his bat into the earth after his Game 3 home run will endure above all. One day, he’ll throw out a first pitch at a Phillies postseason game. The bad tends to fade away.

To his left, perched on a shelf at the top his locker was a black and green disposable camera. On it, a number of photos from the team’s two phenomenal Fall Classic wins and also, a few pictures left untaken. Somewhere in Hoskins’ belongings is yet another camera, untouched and unused. It is full of images that will never be: A victorious celebration, a trophy ceremony, a magnificent parade.

Hoskins has yet to get any of the photos from Philly’s magical month printed or processed. He says that will happen at some point this offseason, once this all fades a bit. But whenever Hoskins gets around to it, he knows he and his teammates will look upon those pictures with pride, and reminisce with one another until the beers run dry.

Because sometimes, it takes a while for memories to develop.

Few understand that better than Hoskins and the Phillies.

Jake Mintz, the louder half of @CespedesBBQ is a baseball writer for FOX Sports. He’s an Orioles fan living in New York City, and thus, he leads a lonely existence most Octobers. If he’s not watching baseball, he’s almost certainly riding his bike. Follow him on Twitter at @Jake_Mintz.


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