Hoskins welcomed home amid newfound stardom

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Will Moon - The State Hornet

Phillies left fielder Rhys Hoskins chats at the Sac State baseball program's Diamond Dinner on Jan. 19. Hoskins received the fourth-most votes for 2017 NL Rookie of the Year despite having played 50 games.

Will Moon, Digital editor

Former Sacramento State first baseman Rhys Hoskins has yet to play a full season in Major League Baseball, but the Sacramento-native’s slugging has propelled his status from coast to coast.

With 50 major league games on his resume following his Aug. 10 call-up, Hoskins stood fourth in total votes for National League Rookie of the Year, bolstered by his 18 home runs and 48 RBIs. The season was filled with new records for Hoskins, who became the fastest player to reach 18-career home runs in MLB history.

“(Playing at Sac State) helped me prepare for the life that was thrown at me the last year,” Hoskins said at the Sac State baseball program’s Diamond Dinner fundraising event on Jan. 19.

The Diamond Dinner was celebrated largely as a homage to the 2017 Western Athletic Conference-winning Sac State team, former coach Cal Boyes (1960-75) and the late Daryl Horn — who was killed alongside his 14-year-old son in a car accident in November — but the tables were filled in the Scottish Rite Masonic Center for the same reason thousands of fans in Philadelphia paid to watch a team that finished with only 66 wins in 2017.

Sporting a grey suit far subtler than his red-white-and-blue Phillies uniform, Hoskins drew gazes and turned heads as he weaved through the crowd — shaking hands, snapping photographs and chatting with friends, family and fans.

MLB.com championed Hoskins as the “new face of (the) Phillies” thanks to his bat, but just across the street from his old campus, the left fielder was given a hero’s welcome for his reputation of humility.

Many Hornet fans remember Hoskins as the slugger whose 53 RBIs and .319 batting average during his senior year in 2014 helped lead the team to a 40-24 overall record, a WAC Championship and its first NCAA Tournament berth in the program’s Division I history. However, coach Reggie Christiansen recalled Hoskins playing an instrumental role in the team’s success off the field as well.

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After the departures of senior pitchers like Brandon Creel and Tyler Hoelzen in 2013, Christiansen said he knew Sac State would need more strength on the mound to win in 2014. That offseason, Hoskins volunteered to return a portion of his scholarship to allow the team to sign right-hander Alex Palsha.

Palsha went 6-1 with four saves and a 1.82 ERA over 59.1 innings pitched and was signed by the New York Mets in the 2014 MLB Draft.

“(Palsha) was a huge reason why we were successful in 2014,” Christiansen said. “If it wasn’t for (Hoskins) caring so much about our program, we wouldn’t have signed Alex and won 40 games.”

When Hoskins signed a six-figure bonus with the Phillies, he spent over $8,000 on commemorative WAC Championship rings for all of his former teammates, Christiansen said.

I think back a lot about my time at Sac State, and I was given my best friends,” Hoskins said. “The people I was surrounded with (on the team), I’ll be friends for life with.”