Rhys Hoskins was getting ready to fly to Dallas last November to embark on a new chapter of his baseball career when his father reminded him of the deal Hoskins made years ago with his mother.
"Remember when she said she would be your agent when you turned pro," Paul Hoskins told his son.
It was a deal Hoskins had with his mother, Cathy Reynolds, who died of breast cancer in 2009, when Hoskins was a sophomore in high school. He was the son of two lawyers. And who better to represent you than your biggest fan?
Hoskins traveled to Dallas to attend the MLB Players Association's executive board meetings. It was his first step to becoming involved with the union, and the 25-year-old has since become its youngest player representative, a role that is filled by one player on each team.
Hoskins was elected by his teammates to represent them in the resolution of problems that occur at the club level. If a union matter needs to be voted on, Hoskins will cast the vote for the clubhouse. He keeps the team informed on union happenings. Just last week he left memos from the union on every locker chair before heading out for batting practice. And if a problem arises, he alerts the union on behalf of the players.
No, he's not an agent. But his new position shares some duties with the role his mother wanted to play.
"It was the first time that someone actually said something to me," Hoskins said of the reminder he received from his father. "It hit me. Like 'wow.' Doing something like this really is a full-circle moment."
Hoskins was invited to Dallas, along with pitcher Mark Leiter Jr., by Mike Myers, a former relief pitcher who acts as a liaison between the team and the union. Myers met Hoskins last August in San Diego, just five days after Hoskins debuted with the Phillies. Myers informed Hoskins of his union rights and made sure his paperwork was lined up. And if Hoskins was interested in getting involved, Myers said to let him know.
"Whether you have one day in the big leagues and zero at-bats or 15 years, everyone's voice will be heard," Myers told him.
Hoskins was the youngest player at the board meetings. He had spent just 53 days in the majors. He said he tried to do more listening than speaking. Hoskins studied business in college and was fascinated by a behind-the-scenes look at how the union work and the initiatives it is trying in order to improve the game and increase revenue. Four months later the Phillies released Cameron Rupp, who was the team's union rep, and Hoskins was elected to take his place.
"If there was ever anything that needed to be addressed to the club from a union standpoint, it helps that he already has a voice in the clubhouse and a leadership type role," Myers said. "I don't know the dynamic of what's going on within the walls of the actual clubhouse, like who's a rah-rah guy or who's a silent leader, but I do know that he's very good at what he does and being very observant and the eyes and ears for us. That helps."
Hoskins' role as clubhouse leader was already secured before his teammates cast their ballots. He showed his leadership traits last summer almost as soon as he entered Citizens Bank Park. Gabe Kapler met him for the first time this winter and knew immediately that he was someone whom players would follow. No one out-prepares or outworks Hoskins, Kapler said.
Nothing seems forced with Hoskins — he leads naturally with his presence. He quietly squashes problems — as when Odubel Herrera made a mistake last month on the basepaths — and his locker has become the site of postgame gatherings, with teammates rolling their chairs to Hoskins' stall before even changing out of their uniforms.
"He's probably always had it since he was born. It's one of those things that people are born with," said catcher Andrew Knapp, who played with Hoskins on travel teams as teenagers before reuniting in the Phillies' minor-league system. "He's a confident guy and he leads by example. It's genuine. You can tell when someone is doing it just because people are watching. That's not the case. He was the same then as he is now. Very calm and easy mannered but gets down to business and always does the right thing."
His leadership can be traced to his parents. Cathy Reynolds, even during her three battles with breast cancer, was in the stands at his games and organizing his youth baseball team's trips to play in travel tournaments across the country. His parents did whatever they could to keep life normal for Hoskins and his younger sister, Meloria. Paul Hoskins, his son said, always put his children before himself as his wife of nearly two decades waged her fight. His parents were leaders. And it is that leadership that is now shining in the Phillies clubhouse.
"He's always been more than just a baseball player," Paul Hoskins said last year. "I think he has a charisma that people naturally follow him."
Hoskins has been a professional baseball player for the last three Mother's Days. But Sunday will be his first in the major leagues. It will be special. The Phillies will wear pink caps, the players will swing pink bats, and the reminders of his mother will be everywhere. Hoskins has hit a home run on the last two Mother's Days. And he is eager to see what Sunday holds. The one thing that is certain is that Hoskins will lead his team. Just as his mother would have expected.