Rhys Hoskins was frustrated. He was in a 1-for-19 playoff slump at the most important time of the season. So when he launched a three-run homer in the bottom of the third inning of Game 3 of the National League Division Series against Atlanta last October, all the pent up frustration resulted in an image that became an instant franchise icon.
He spiked his bat, creating an unforgettable portrait of jubilation and relief. A giant photo of that moment is part of the series of great moments memorialized on the wall of the tunnel that connects the Phillies clubhouse and dugout.
Hoskins has been dealing with a different type of frustration since March. Three weeks ago, he was able to ditch the crutches that he’d needed to get around ever since tearing the ACL in his left knee during spring training, a freakish injury that occurred when he backed up to field a routine ground ball.
It was a big step in his rehab, one that remains a longshot to result in a triumphant return to the lineup this season. For the record, he didn’t spike his crutches. “But I haven’t seen them since that day,” he said with a laugh.
“It's a slow burn, but everything's what is to be expected. It's weird being away, for sure. It's the first May I haven't played baseball in I don't even know how long. So, yeah, obviously I'm going through it a little bit with that. Physically, it's coming along just as planned. Feeling confident about that. Looking forward to the next big things that are coming.”
Hoskins is back. Back at Citizens Bank Park, at least, after spending most of the early months of his recovery in California. He has a lot of hard work left to do before he can even think about playing again, but he hopes to spend as much time as possible around his teammates going forward.
He’s been called the captain of a team that doesn’t officially confer that designation. Being in the clubhouse, being around his teammates, being as much a part of it as he can, all those things will certainly help him mentally.
“No doubt,” he said Wednesday afternoon before news broke that the scheduled game against the Tigers had been postponed due to air quality concerns from the Canadian wildfires. “Being around the guys, being able to talk ball. Just being in the dugout's a huge thing, and hopefully to just start to feel more normal.”
How much he’ll be able to contribute from the sidelines remains to be seen. Manager Rob Thomson made the obvious point that it’s difficult to lead when you’re not playing. Hoskins comes at it from a slightly different angle.
“I think you can. I think part of being a leader is being somebody who can be accountable and have some credibility. I think that just helps to put some weight behind what you’re saying or what you’re doing,” he said.
“I don’t know if leading is the right word. I think there are different ways to support different guys throughout season. Whether it’s a text while they’re on the road or just talking to a guy about how I’ve faced a certain lefty that he might face. So instead of leading, I think I’ll just focus on trying to be as supportive as I can.”
The next big milestone is to begin jogging. That should happen in about a week. He still hopes to be activated this season. It would take a lot of things to go right and it probably wouldn’t happen until the middle of the postseason, if at all.
“It's a lofty goal, but again, we have someone that's done it before (Kyle Schwarber) and we have really, really good care here,” he said. “I'm going to push until I can't push anymore or they say not to. I think that's the right mindset to have. I'm competitive, right? I like to try to beat things that have certain standards or are put right in front of me.”
In the meantime, he and wife Jayme will be hosting a Muscular Dystrophy fundraiser on June 22.
The journey from frustration to normalcy continues.