Hoskins makes MLB history with powerful pace


Courtesy of Miles Kennedy/Philadelphia Phillies

Former Sacramento State slugger and current Philadelphia Phillies left fielder Rhys Hoskins was named National League Rookie of the Month for August on Sept. 3.

Will Moon

Twenty-five days into his Major League Baseball debut, former Sacramento State first baseman and Philadelphia Phillies left fielder Rhys Hoskins was named National League Rookie of the Month for August on Sept. 3.

On Aug. 30, Hoskins won the minor league honors of International League Most Valuable Player and IL Rookie of the Year.

Along with being the first player from Sac State to play in the big leagues since pitcher Roland De La Maza in 1997 (Kansas City Royals) and the first position player since LaSchelle Tarver in 1986 (Boston Red Sox), Hoskins is the first player from the Lehigh Valley IronPigs — the Phillies Triple A affiliate — to win either accolade.

Beginning Aug. 10, Hoskins batted 0-for-8 in his first three games in the majors and remained hitless in his first 12 at-bats, before recording a force-out RBI in the first inning and a single in the fifth during a 6-2 loss to the New York Mets Aug. 13.

Sac State head coach Reggie Christiansen was vacationing in Hawaii when the right-hander was first called up, but Christensen spoke with Hoskins on the phone the night before his debut and watched every game of the slugger’s first two series with his wife via the MLB mobile app.

“He didn’t get his first hit until Sunday,” Christiansen said. “Then (he texted me) Sunday night and he said, ‘It was good to get that one out of the way and really looking forward to going to the West Coast and seeing all my family.’ ”

The next day, the Phillies arrived at Petco Park, where Hoskins’ family and the San Diego crowd witnessed his first two career home runs — the first of which was a 410 foot, 110 mph shot to left field. By Aug. 27, Hoskins hit an MLB-record 11 home runs in his first 18 games, giving Phillies fans something to cheer for amid one of the worst seasons in franchise history.

The Phillies began a four game series in San Francisco on Aug. 17. Hoskins — a Sacramento native who grew up rooting for the Giants — was greeted before the first game at AT&T park by an array of familiar faces, including his family, Christiansen, former Sac State teammates and Joey Davis, the Northern California Phillies scout who encouraged the team to select Hoskins in the fifth round of the 2014 MLB Draft.

“Fate is a powerful thing,” Hoskins told FOX 40 in San Francisco. “It’s kind of one of those things where you’d say, ‘Of course that happened.’ (This series) gives me an opportunity to share it with friends and family. You know, having especially my dad here. He sacrificed a whole bunch in my baseball career to get me to where I’m at — so to see the joy on his face and to see him enjoy himself is something pretty special.”

That night the Giants won 5-4, but Hoskins went 2-for-3 and threw out Buster Posey at third base from left field. Over the next three games in the series, Hoskins hit two home runs with four RBIs.

“The home run he hit on Saturday (Aug. 19) was like five rows behind us,” Christiansen said. “It was awesome — like a Disney movie. He threw a ball in the stands in between innings to my 12-year-old son, so it was a lot of fun.”

Though drafted as a first base prospect, Hoskins stood little chance taking over the starting job from the Phillies home run and RBI leader Tommy Joseph, and was asked to play left field.

On Aug. 27, the same day Hoskins hit his 11th home run en route to a 6-3 win over the reigning champion Chicago Cubs at Citizens Bank Park, Hoskins made a sliding catch and threw the ball to second base to initiate a triple play — the first one started by a Phillies outfielder since Alex Johnson in 1964. That day also marked Hoskins’ fifth-straight game with a home run.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen a young guy look that profound at home plate,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon told Comcast Sports Network Philadelphia after the game.

During his senior year in 2014, Hoskins led the Hornets in RBIs (53) and slugging percentage (.573) and held the third-highest batting average (.319) and helped lead the team to a 40-24 overall record, a Western Athletic Conference Championship and its first NCAA Tournament berth in the program’s Division I history.

While it’s unlikely Hoskins will maintain such a powerful pace in Philadelphia, the rookie has attracted national attention within weeks. Through 85 at-bats, Hoskins has 12 home runs, a .318 batting average with 27 RBIs and a .776 slugging percentage as of press time.