September 21, 2017
The 10-pitch at-bat with the game on the line (bases loaded, two outs) in the seventh inning of Tuesday’s Phillies-Dodgers game involved a pitcher offering up nothing but fastballs hovering in the high 90s and a rookie with the plate discipline of a veteran, never giving in and fouling off four pitches.
The hitter was Rhys Hoskins, who was in the lineup at Triple-A Lehigh Valley six weeks earlier. The pitcher was Pedro Baez.
The score was tied. Until Hoskins drilled pitch No.10, a 97-MPH fastball, into the gap in left-center, clearing the bases and giving the first-year phenom his second, third, and fourth RBIs in his last two innings to put the Phillies in front for good.
“The longer I’m in there, the more pitches I see, the more comfortable I start to feel,” Hoskins said.
Rhys Hoskins clears the loaded bases with a double. but not before seeing TEN PITCHES first. pic.twitter.com/unnp2DyMxM— chris jones¯\_(ツ)_/¯ (@LONG_DRIVE) September 20, 2017
Up in the front office suites in the Hall of Fame level of Citizens Bank Park was the guy who met Hoskins before anyone else in the ballpark. It was eight years earlier, on a fall afternoon inside a dugout at Northern California baseball field, right around the same time the Phillies were playing the New York Yankees in the World Series.
As Hoskins got comfortable with each pitch from Baez on Tuesday night, Joey Davis, the area scout who signed him for the Phillies three summers ago, grew more anxious.
“I still get nervous for them pitch by pitch,” said Davis, who saw another one of his signees, catcher Andrew Knapp, emerge victorious from an eight-pitch at-bat with Dodgers All-Star left-hander Alex Wood on Wednesday night, ripping a run-scoring single to center.
Davis probably couldn’t help but smile as he watched his second game in as many nights at Citizens Bank Park, a place he only sees about once a year as a West Coast area scout, and a place where he watched on Wednesday with his 86-year-old father, his brother, girlfriend, and nephew with him, too. It was a special night in a special year for Davis.
The 52-year-old Davis was honored prior to Wednesday’s game with the Dodgers with the Dallas Green Award, an honor bestowed annually to a pro or amateur scout “who best exemplifies the Phillies’ standard for scouting while demonstrating the same loyalty, work ethic, dedication and passion as the award’s namesake” while also including the “scout’s ability to judge not only a player’s talent, but also his character and heart.”
“It’s humbling first of all,” Davis said. “I don’t belong in the category with him. So to win an award with his name on it, it’s an unbelievable feeling. I’m really humbled. It’s a little extra special with him passing away (this year). March 22, I remember the day. So it’s pretty special.”
Davis has seen four of his Phillies draftee signees make their major league debuts this season: Hoskins, Knapp, first baseman/outfielder Brock Stassi, and right-hander pitcher Drew Anderson.
"I did that for 10 years,” said Will George, a Lewes, Del., resident who has worked as a scout for 25 years, including the last 18 years as a major league scout for the Colorado Rockies. “A lot of times you have to get lucky to get a guy drafted, depending on who’s available and what round and then whether he ends up in the big leagues. But not all of those guys were high picks or big guys either. So that’s a helluva job to do that.
“The area guy is the one who finds the kid in the sixth or 11th round because he knows his makeup, he knows his work ethic and if he has what it takes to be a big leaguer. That’s a tremendous achievement.”
Needless to say, Hoskins and Knapp, the two of his four signees on the current roster, were thrilled to see Davis being honored.
“He’s driving all around Northern California and Northern Nevada trying to find the next gem, and he enjoys doing it … I’m glad he’s getting the recognition that he deserves,” Hoskins said. “I hope he’s got a gas card. It’s going to games, multiple games a day, going to see a hitter for a couple of at-bats or a pitcher at the end of the game. And you’re driving hours away. The level of scheduling that goes into that job – I don’t know how they do it.”
“(When) you get a guy like Stassi who is just so off the radar and he obviously saw something in him,” said Knapp, who made the Opening Day roster team with Stassi out of spring training. “For him to have trust in himself, that he knows talent to be able to stick up for people, it’s huge. … For him to get recognition, it validates what we’ve been doing, too. We’ve been putting in the work and he believed in us, he stuck his neck out to draft us. So it’s pretty cool for us to give him some of the spotlight.”
Hoskins was asked if he could remember that day back in the fall of 2009 when he met the guy who would eventually get his pro career started 4 1/2 years later.
“Scout Ball. I was a junior in high school,” Hoskins said. “It was kind of my first taste to an event like that, where there are 80 players out there and 50 scouts. I remember being a little bit overwhelmed. I was standing in the dugout waiting for my turn to take batting practice and he just sat down next to me and had a conversation. I didn’t even know he was a scout. Then he introduced himself to me afterward and gave me his title. That’s what I remember from that day, just how cool of a person he was, not knowing he was a scout. He’s a great person first of all and that’s the first thing that stood out to me.”
I remember hearing your name on the penultimate day of spring training, when Brock Stassi made the team and the video of his reaction went viral. And he thanked you almost immediately in the interview.
Joey Davis: Brock made me famous.
Stassi very emotional, choking back tears and calling it "a dream come true." pic.twitter.com/jcUb5H9UYZ— Ryan Lawrence (@ryanlawrence21) March 30, 2017
A pretty good omen for the rest of the 2017 season, huh?
It was a good start for sure. And Rhys has kind of come in and take over after that. And it’s good to have Andrew back healthy, too.
I know the scouting community is a pretty close fraternity, good camaraderie. Have you heard if there’s ever been anyone who has had four guys they’ve signed make their big league debuts in the same season?
I don’t think it’s happened. I know some older guys, scouts who are friends and have been in the business for a long time, and they can’t remember. So I don’t know if there’s a record for it or anything. I don’t know of anybody doing it. It’s pretty neat. The kids mean a lot to me, so I’m really happy for them. They’re all great kids.
How long have you been with the Phillies now?
I just completed my 14th year.
And when did you get started in baseball?
In 2000, with the Toronto Blue Jays, I was with them for 4 years and then the Phillies for 14. So I just finished my 18th year.
Did you make the transition from player to scout at some point?
I just played through college, and then I was a college coach for 12 years on the East Coast. I was at a couple of small schools, Barry College in Georgia, and then a couple in Florida. … Then I had the opportunity to get in pro ball and took a job with the Blue Jays. Then I actually got to coach for a couple years in the New York Penn League, and then I worked in Reading one summer for the draft. So I’ve done a little bit of everything.
Do you remember the first time you saw Rhys Hoskins play?
He was a junior in high school, in the fall, he was playing for a local scout team and that’s when I went up to him and started talking to him to see what kind of kid he was. I realized he was going to be a class kid. He was big and strong then, so I was hoping I was going to follow his career and wait for the power to develop.
I was just reading a story today on Fangraphs about the power in today’s game – a MLB record for most home runs in a season was set yesterday – and it’s happening in the minor leagues, too. The story suggested that it’s got to be awfully tough for scouts then, since everyone has power.
Yeah, it’s hard, power is the hardest thing to judge in scouting. I think sometimes a lot of… it can get kind of construed with the level of pitching. So guys may be hitting a bunch of home runs off guys throwing 80-85 (MPH). Eventually, you’ve got to be strong, you’ve got to be big, and you’ve got to have a good approach. And he’s always had that, just a sound fundamental swing. His hands are always back, his weight is back, he’s patient and he knows the strike zone. He showed me the ability to go to right-center, with two strikes. I thought he was going to be able to handle the good pitching is what I’m getting at.
It seems like he’s proved you right lately. Did you watch (Tuesday night’s) game?
Yeah, I was up in the suite. He battled all day. The first at-bat against (Yu) Darvish, he threw a 3-2 86-MPH slider right off the edge and he took it for ball four. Oh my gosh, I’m swinging that that pitch. [Laughs]. We all are, right?
Do you have any more of your guys coming?
Zach Green (an infielder who split time in 2017 between Class A Clearwater and Double-A Reading) just got invited to Arizona Fall League. He went to the same high school as Rhys, Jesuit High School (in Sacramento, Calif.). And Mitch Walding was in Double-A, he hit 25 home runs. Got to Triple-A. He had an injury, too, broke his jaw and missed a month after colliding with (Chace) Numata. But, yeah, hopefully, those guys. And Drew Anderson was a guy who was up this year (for a short while), but hopefully, he can help us soon as a starting pitcher.
Back to Brock Stassi making you famous. It’s easy to forget how great of a story that was back in April.
Brock and Drew are two unique stories. Brock was just a senior sign coming out of college (33rd round pick). Those guys usually play for a year, two years. He signed for $2,000. So for him to make it, it’s unbelievable. I think David Eckstein was a senior sign type player. So (Stassi’s) story was unbelievable.
And Drew, it’s kind of different. He was a no-name kid out of nowhere that I just found in Reno, Nevada, not one scout knew about him. He didn’t even have a college scholarship. He was going to go to a technical school. I drafted a kid named Bryan Pointer (28th round, 2010) and Drew went to the same school so I’d stayed in touch with the coach, and that coach, who also coached Charlie Kerfeld, so there was a connection there, too, so I’d always stayed in contact with the coach.
And my daughter lives in Reno. So I’m driving to Reno, going to Reno to see my daughter and I call the coach and I say, "Hey coach, do you have anybody for me to look at?". And he said, yeah, come on out. And this is in November, it’s cold and everything. But he said he’d have a pitcher come out around lunchtime just to throw the ball around. I come out and here’s Anderson – 6-3, loose, ball is coming out of his hand (great) and he had no idea what he was doing. And I’m thinking, ‘Look at this kid. Long torso, square shoulders.’ I said, “This guy might be alright. Coach, he looks OK, when’s your first game?” In Reno they play late, they don’t start until February. And so their first game was in March in Northern California. He said we play March 2 in the San Jose area. I just circled that on my calendar.
I sneak into that game, and it’s a night game which makes it even better, not one scout there. Drew’s first warmup pitch was 91. First warmup pitch, 91, 18-year-old kid who doesn’t know what he’s doing. I’m like, “Oh my god.” I stayed on him all year, I’d sneak in, I didn’t even take my radar gun the second time, I didn’t want any parent or anybody to know there was a scout there. And so the draft comes and I tell them there’s a guy I want and we can draft him in any round, there’s not one scout that knows about him. We got him in the 19th. I told our guys we could wait, and they’re like, no, you really like him let’s get him now. And we got him for like $70,000. And in the 19th round. We could have taken him in the 39th round.
So those two stories are pretty neat. And Andrew is a Pac-12 All-American, his dad played pro ball.
Back to Hoskins. He has the most home runs in the history of the game for a guy who didn’t make his season debut until August. The previous record was held by Ted Williams.
So what’s that mean when your guy is associated with Ted Williams?
That’s unbelievable. I’m like Rhys. He says he’s just riding the wave, and sitting here watching him. It’s been a record year for me, mainly for the kids in the organization. So I just ride their coattails. I still kind of get nervous for them pitch by pitch, but yeah, for him to be mentioned with Ted Williams, it’s kind of like me getting the Dallas Green Award, you know?
Follow Ryan on Twitter: @ryanlawrence21
Like PhillyVoice Sports on Facebook.