WASHINGTON — When Rhys Hoskins was invited to compete in the Home Run Derby, he thought back to when he used to watch the event on television and wondered if his childhood fantasy of being a part of it could possibly match up with the reality.
On Monday night, the Phillies slugger got his answer.
“One hundred percent — and more,” Hoskins said. “You’re kind of in your own little world in that box with everybody watching you, but it was fun. Awesome to do.”
Hoskins advanced to the semifinals of the eight-hitter field, knocking off Milwaukee Brewers first baseman Jesus Aguilar, 17-12, in the first round. He appeared poised to advance to the finals, too. But Chicago Cubs slugger Kyle Schwarber belted five home runs in 30 seconds, including a third-decker on his final swing, to edge Hoskins, 21-20, before a boisterous packed house at Nationals Park.
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Schwarber advanced to the final against Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper, the hometown favorite who tied a District of Columbia flag bandanna around his head and knocked off Atlanta’s Freddie Freeman and the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Max Muncy. Harper staged his own late rally in the final, and his homer in bonus time beat Schwarber, 19-18.
It was nevertheless a power-packed showing for Hoskins, the fifth Phillies player to compete in the derby and first since Ryan Howard in 2009.
Of Hoskins’ 37 homers against Phillies minor-league infield coordinator Chris Truby, the longest was a 466-foot shot in the semifinals, according to MLB Statcast. The average distance of Hoskins’ homers was 403.1 feet in the first round, 412.5 feet in the semifinals; his average exit velocity was 102.35 mph in the first round, 102.6 mph in the semifinals.
“I think four minutes is a long time to hit,” Hoskins said, referring to the time each contestant had in each round. “It wasn’t much my body..I think you just kind of forget to breathe. I think at one point in that first round I looked up and thought there was going to be 10 seconds left and there was still a minute, 20 [seconds]. I had to just remind myself to breathe and enjoy it.”
Rhys Hoskins putting on a display at the Home Run Derby. pic.twitter.com/lW37UleGDd
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Hoskins made good use of the format, taking his timeout at about the midpoint of both rounds. And in each case, he went on a tear, hitting 12 homers after the breather in both rounds. He also set high bars with his lofty homer totals. Aguilar, who wasted too much time between swings, couldn’t clear it. Schwarber did.
“I was a fan at that point,” Hoskins said. “I was trying to see Kyle hit as many as he can as far as he could, and he didn’t disappoint at all.”
Hoskins, who has 14 home runs this season for the Phillies, was invited to compete despite not being named a National League all-star. He was greeted by a smattering of boos by Nationals fans but said he fed off the energy of the crowd.
“I imagine that’s what playoff baseball is like, everybody standing, everybody into it,” Hoskins said. “Every pitch that was thrown by these guys, everyone was into it.”
And if he’s ever asked to do it again?
“One hundred percent,” Hoskins said. “Too cool an opportunity to turn down if I was ever asked again.”
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