FOX Sports MLB Analyst
HOUSTON – On September 26, Rhys Hoskins walked into Urban Outfitters in Chicago and bought three disposable cameras.
At the time, the Phillies were a team in freefall. They had lost three of their last seven games, and their grip on the third Wild Card spot was slipping. Even if they hung on and snuck into the expanded postseason field, the Phillies didn’t exactly smell like a club capable of making a deep October run.
But Hoskins felt something in the air. So that day off in Chicago, while he and his dad were standing in line to buy clothes, he spontaneously grabbed those three cameras from a trash can by the register.
“I guess I just had a feeling that something special was going to happen,” Hoskins said. “I wanted to capture as much of it as possible.”
Catch he made. Over the next few weeks, as the Phillies clinched a postseason berth in Houston, they took the Wild Card Series to St. Louis and upset the Braves in the NLDS, Hoskins took his trio of cameras every step of the way. From the clubhouse to the plane to the bus to the field, the club’s longtime first baseman cracked and cracked whenever he felt compelled to.
That was until the pictures were finished.
Hours after Game 4 of the NLDS, Hoskins, his clothes still soaked from the team’s champagne celebration, walked back to the home dugout and looked out at the field. The sun had just set, but the night was not yet cold. The sky was in that brief stage between dusk and night, radiating a soft bluish gray. Light pop music echoed through the empty stadium. The players chatted with their families or rode with their children. 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 a pretty surreal scene. unimaginable Worthy of commemoration. So the first baseman pointed his camera at the jubilation and pressed down, freezing the moment forever, before tucking the disposable back into his pocket.
“Just one?” someone asked from across the dugout.
“This is my last photo here,” Hoskins replied.
The Phillies’ longest hitter, a guy who spent six unrewarding and unsatisfying seasons in The City of Brotherly Love before making the postseason, had literally experienced more unforgettable memories than he had anticipated.
“Guess I need to buy some more.”
The Phillies celebrate making it to the World Series for the 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 lost World Series locker room before you can see it. The rumble of lids and hearty hugs, the crunch of opening beer cans, a soft hum of bittersweet goodbye. The mood is solemn, but grateful.
That scene played out in the visiting locker room at Minute Maid Park Saturday night because at the most inopportune moment, the hottest team on the planet froze. The spark died, the tank dried up, there was just so much pixie dust in the air. A lineup full of free swingers was on display.
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 sank the Phillies in Games 4 and 5 sank them again in Game 6. HoustonPhilly’s talented pitchers pushed, Philly’s talented pitchers had little response. And so, the confetti was orange and navy blue.
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 newly graduated Lehigh Valley IronPigs came together and made history. Not as much history as they expected, but history nonetheless.
Still, there was a palpable sense of disappointment in the losing dressing room. No matter how magical the journey, the end of a season still stings if you don’t make it to your destination. Nick Castellanos sat in his closet staring into space. Hoskins wiped away tears as he addressed the media. Harper donned an all-black Phillies hat, as if in mourning.
But all in all, the energy was…grateful. Grateful for each other, grateful for what they had accomplished as a group, grateful for how enjoyable the ride was. Several players commented on how it was easily the most fun they’d ever had playing the game they’d known in their entire lives.
“It’s like the baseball you’ve played your whole life, but on steroids.” Phillies catcher JT Realmuto explained. “Everything is more exciting. Winning is a lot more fun, losing hurts a lot more. All the emotions are so up and down and so extreme. But it’s the most fun I’ve ever had.”
Even with the loss, the Phillies still had fun, albeit in a more reserved way. Kyle Schwarber conducted a 10-minute interview with a Coors Light tucked into the waistband of his skimpy shorts. And as the media began to trickle in, a group of players gathered in a circle in the back corner of the room to drink beer, tell stories about the year and keep that feeling going as long as possible. Rebellion against the inevitable finality of a season’s conclusion.
“Jo Vierling,” joked one player. “Remember when Pujols signed that bat for you.”
Matt Vierling, a boy from St. Louis and a big fan of Pujols from childhood, he nodded.
“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/geyser/head bench entertainer, his voice hoarse from a month’s worth of excitement, stood up and asked if anyone needed a drink. One player commented that he would take 30. Stubbs returned with an armload of very large tin cans, like a child carrying too many toy blocks, offering refreshments to anyone interested.
It couldn’t have been more Phillies 2022. 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 would they return
One of the members of the circle was Hoskins, the area around his eyes still red with disappointment. His tough defensive showing and brutal 3-for-21 World Series streak has been the bane of many Philly fans’ recent existence. But a few years from now, the image of Hoskins throwing his bat into the dirt after his Game 3 home run will live on most of all. One day, he’ll throw out a first pitch at a Phillies postseason game. The bad tends to disappear.
To her left, perched on a shelf at the top of her locker, was a black and green disposable camera. In it, there are a number of photos from the team’s two phenomenal Fall Classic wins and also some photos that were not taken. Somewhere in Hoskins’ belongings is 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 print or process any of the photos from Philly’s magical month. He says that will happen sometime this offseason, once all of this has died down a bit. But every time Hoskins makes it, he knows he and his teammates will look back at those pictures with pride and reminisce with each other until the beers run dry.
Because sometimes, memories take a while to develop.
Few understand that better than Hoskins and the Phillies.
Jake Mintz, the stronger half @CespedesBBQ is a baseball writer for FOX Sports. He’s an Orioles fan who lives in New York City and therefore 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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