Rhys Hoskins tapped the end of his bat on the rubber on-deck circle at Citizens Bank Park on August 10, 2017, dispensing with his batting donut as he approached home plate for his first MLB at-bat, and marking a big moment for the city of Philadelphia.
Sure, the 65 home runs and 186 RBI he has already provided to the hometown Phillies in less than two full seasons of baseball has been nice.
But a couple decades from now, when he finally hangs up his uniform for the last time, his legacy to the city may be greater than the bucket loads of home run balls he deposits into the outfield bleachers.
The reach of Hoskins' philanthropy has already exceeded the distance of his home runs, and it extended 1.5 miles further when he hosted for the second time the 9th MDA Muscle Walk of Greater Philadelphia at the Navy Yard.
The 24-year-old slugger was hardly alone on this picturesque summer day. He was joined by Phillies teammates Scott Kingery, Aaron Nola, Andrew Knapp, and Jake Arrieta, as well as Phillies managing partner John Middleton and, of course, the Phillie Phanatic.
The 2019 MDA Muscle Walk brought together families, friends, and local businesses to raise critical awareness and funds for muscle-debilitating diseases that severely weaken muscle strength and mobility. This year’s 1.5-mile walk allowed for participants of all ages and abilities, including those in wheelchairs like myself.
In 2018, about 29,000 people participated in 140 MDA Muscle Walks across the nation, raising $6.1 million. Since 2011, MDA Muscle Walks have raised more than $53 million.
Funds raised also make MDA Summer Camp possible for more than 64 area kids where they can experience the best week of the year at no cost to their families at Variety Club Camp.
It was at one of those camps where Hoskins began his involvement with the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) nine years ago. He served as a counselor at a week-long camp for kids with muscular dystrophy at Sly Park in northern California the summer before his senior year. It was nothing more than a high school requirement at the time.
“Going into it, that’s what it was all about,” Hoskins said.
Hoskins volunteered to return the next year along with his now fiancee Jayme Bermudez, this time as a camp leader in charge of overseeing one of the cabins.
If you have the chance to speak to Hoskins, it won't be long before he brings up the name Charlie, the camper he was partnered with during that week in 2010. He stayed up through the night to turn Charlie over in his sleep - yes, some people do need assistance with that sort of thing - and helped him go to the bathroom.
“You get a lot of sports athletes that are hands-on with children," said Yessenia Solis, whose son Axel attended one of Hoskins' ballpark events in 2017. "But they don’t spend the night with just one child every night for a week and have to be there in case they choke at night or they fall out of their bed and literally can’t get up – Rhys had that experience as a counselor,” Solis said.
And that is what makes Rhys particularly special.
He volunteered that second summer not because he had to, but because he wanted to. Let's not forget that Hoskins was no hot-shot prospect that charities seek out to champion their causes. He was in no way on a fast track to the big leagues. He accepted a scholarship from Sacramento State, the only school that recruited him. Hoskins was also just one year removed from losing his mother after a 14-year battle with breast cancer.
“It was something that I had never really faced and never really seen,” Hoskins recalled of his first summer camp. “My mom was sick, but she was always able to do everything. I left there reminded just how lucky I am that I get to live the life that I do.”
By the time Hoskins took his first hacks at Citizens Bank Park, his involvement with the MDA was in full swing. One of the first things he did after joining the Phillies on August 10 was reach out to the local MDA branch. He wanted to host an event for children with muscular dystrophy before the season let out...in less than two months. An ambitious goal for an ambitious person.
“Seeing Rhys and Jayme in that capacity," MDA executive director Amanda Sweet said, "it was very evident that their heart and their reason for doing this was so pure and genuine.
“It’s a testament to his character that he wanted to do it and followed through with it – he recognizes the great opportunity he has and wants to give back to people who won’t have that opportunity.”
Rhys and Jayme followed through with it again on Saturday, and helped provide another unforgettable day for many people who look forward to it all year.
It would be nice as a Phillies fan to see Rhys Hoskins sign his own 13-year contract like his teammate Bryce Harper. It will be even nicer to see him hosting at least 13 more Muscle Walks.
But wherever his baseball career takes him, it is safe to say this is not the last the MDA will be hearing from Rhys Hoskins.
It's never too late to donate! I would love it if you would make a donation on my fundraising page here.
And learn how you can fund cures, find care and champion the cause at mda.org.comments powered by Disqus