Friday, December 23, 2016

Off-season Check In: 1B Rhys Hoskins


Rhys Hoskins, image- Jay Floyd
First baseman Rhys Hoskins proved to be one of the Phillies most promising prospects last season, when he dominated the Double-A Eastern League as a member of the Reading Fightins.  In 135 regular season games, the 23-year-old righty slugger posted a .281 average with 38 homers and 116 RBI. 

After helping to lead Reading into the postseason, Hoskins, who was the Phils' 5th round draft selection in 2014, spent time in the Dominican Republic playing with the Gigantes.  During his brief stint, the six-foot-four, 225-pounder tallied a .224 average with four home runs and 16 RBI in 21 games.

This week I spoke with Rhys about his experience in the DR, what he is up to this off-season and plenty more.  Read ahead for that full interview.

- So you spent some time playing in the Dominican Republic this off-season.  What can you share about the experience?

It was good.  It was short.  But, I think the time that I was there was definitely worthwhile. I learned a lot about the way the game is played down there and it's a lot different.  It's a lot slower and everything is more methodical and thought out, especially the pitching.  It was good to kind of see a different-- I was attacked, approached differently down there than how they pitch in the States, so it was good to see that side of it.

- What were the crowds like at those games?  Were they much different than the minors here?

Yeah, they were fun.  They were loud, a lot of energy.  We played in one of the smaller stadiums, so when there was a lot of people there, it was pretty loud.  Some of the bigger teams down there, the teams in the capital, like Licey and Escogido and then the Aguilas team, they have bigger stadiums, so they can hold a lot more people.  So, it was good to play in that kind of environment and kind of feel the pressure of 15,000 people while you play.

- Was there anyone, coach or teammates wise, that you took a lot from to help you develop?

Yeah, our manager, Bobby Dickerson, he is, I believe, the third base coach for the Orioles now.  He's a big infield guy, lives, breathes infield work, so I actually worked quite a bit with him, doing extra work, stuff during BP, just little things in the infield that kind of make me-- just routine stuff that I can use to make infield work more comfortable, which is always something that I'm striving to do.

I'm definitely going to take these things back into my everyday work and hopefully it pays dividends like it did while I was there.

- Did any of your Gigantes teammates help with transitioning to the change...like Alberto Tirado, or someone else?

Yeah, he was there.  Joely (Rodriguez) was there for a little bit right before I left.  It was cool to see him.  It is cool to be in those guys' hometown and see where they come from and understand the culture and all that.  But, there was a couple guys that I played against in the Eastern League that kind of took some of the American guys under their wing and some guys that I hadn't played with that whether it be because they speak a little better English or I don't know what it was but...Garabez Rosa was one of those guys.  I played against him.  He was an infielder with Bowie.  And then Felix Paulino was a really fantastic guy.  He took all of us American guys under his wing and told us little things that kind helped us get through our everyday lives, not necessarily on the baseball field, just being in a foreign country.  It was pretty helpful.

- That's great to hear.  Hopefully, you'll get the chance to take care of someone in a similar way  or return the favor in the future.

Yeah, it was cool.  Like, I said, seeing some familiar faces made it easier.  Going down there only knowing a couple guys that just made the experience better.


- To start that season, the first game or two you faced off with Dylan Cozens' team.  What was it like facing off against a guy that was your teammate all year and who you were co-winners of the Paul Owens Award with this year?

Yeah, a little different.  But it was fun and we were able to talk before the game and if he got on first, or if (Andrew Knapp) got on first we could talk about how the experience was going or just little stuff.  That kind of keeps it light on the field, which is always good when you're playing baseball.

- So after getting back to the U.S. prior to Thanksgiving Day, what are the biggest differences this off-season versus last year?

I'm a little bit more focused on being in the gym to kind of build a foundation that will last me through August and, hopefully, through September just with my body and I'm working on some flexibility stuff.  I'm always doing some agility, a bunch of stretching to kind of get my body so it feels healthy and strong, so I can hit the ground running in spring training.

- I've talked to guys that spend some time in the off-season going to NFL or NBA games.  Is that something you do during down time, or have you played so much as a pro athlete this year that you don't have interest or time for it?

I'm a sports fan.  Whether it's baseball or-- actually, we got the chance to go to the Indians-Blue Jays game, game 2 in Cleveland, which was an awesome experience.  It was electric.  I got to see a ballpark I had never been to.  I'm just a sports fan.  I think when the TV's on, I'm usually watching some sort of sports.  I'm a big Raider guy, so the NFL season's been pretty fun for me and yeah, any chance I can get, I will take it.  

- Did you just get tickets, or did you have some sort of fancy access?

I just took my girlfriend.  We had some decent seats, but we didn't have any sort of VIP access or anything like that.  We got there early and saw the ballpark.  

It was cool just to see the pregame stuff and the park fill up and the game was a good game.

- As far as I know, you're a west coast guy.  What got you to a playoff game in Cleveland?

My girlfriend works and lives in Cleveland right now, so that's where I am.  I came across the tickets and we decided to go to the game.  I'm spending the off-season in Cleveland.
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