Rhys Hoskins returns to Philly on Monday as the Milwaukee Brewer

DAVID MURPHY The Philadelphia Inquirer

MILWAUKEE – Two hours before first pitch, Rhys Hoskins looks out of his pipe through the pale evening light and thinks about the void that lay within and beyond.

It is still there. Sting. How could it not be? Less now and getting weaker. But hey, to live is to feel. The deeper it goes, the longer it lasts. What would it have meant if he could have stood here and said he had completely moved on?

“I think the hardest part for me is that the ending just didn’t fit with the rest,” Hoskins says from the perch in his new dugout at American Life Field. “I don’t know what the ending is supposed to look like, but it didn’t fit with the rest of my time there. In terms of the energy that I put into it, the energy that I got from the city, from the communities that I was able to be a part of it. I didn’t like it. And, yes, it was sad. Throwing out the first pitch in the division series, it’s a moment I’ll be able to talk about forever, I’m so thankful I was able to get that.

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The ending was awful. There’s no shame in admitting it. Sometimes it goes like this. Things happen and it’s no one’s fault. Fate, circumstances and their cold disregard. They are the only ones to blame. It doesn’t make the endings any less difficult.

Hoskins understands this better than anyone. He’s a thousand miles away and getting more comfortable with her every day. He has much more than most men can hope for at age 31: his wife, his dog, his health, $34 million guaranteed, a spot in the middle of an exciting young lineup. He knows that now as well as he did six months ago, when the Phillies informed their old first baseman that they would not be making him an offer in free agency.

Nothing that happened in the first two months of this season would suggest that the Phillies miscalculated. They entered Monday with a 41-19 record, on pace for 111 wins, the first team in the majors with 300 points, a 6 1/2 game lead over the Braves in the NL East, a 3 1/2 lead over Dodgers for home field advantage throughout the playoffs.

Down in the minor leagues, there’s a kid who turns 20 next Sunday who rakes from the right side of the plate. High school picks don’t usually deserve a mention one year into their careers. But then, high school draft picks don’t typically do the things shortstop Aidan Miller does in A-ball: 10 steals, five home runs, nearly as many walks as strikeouts.

Miller is already older than Mike Trout was when he made his big league debut. In two years, she’ll be the same age Trea Turner was when she entered the majors. Alec Bohm will still be under contract, as will Turner, Bryson Stott and Bryce Harper. So will Nick Castellanos. And Brandon Marsh. And Johan Rojas.

The combined price for that group will increase considerably between now and then. Bohm, Stott and Ranger Suárez all look like players who will need more than $20 million per season for any long-term contract extension. That would more than make up for the $45 million they’ll throw away when JT Realmuto and Kyle Schwarber’s contracts expire, even before the Phillies figure out how to replace both players.

It was no surprise that they didn’t see Hoskins in their plans.

Lack of closure, more than anything. For Hoskins. For the Phillies. For anyone who spent seven years watching them build each other into their current forms.

When Hoskins returned to face the Phillies as a member of the upstart Brewers on Monday, he was set to play his first game at Citizens Bank Park since Game 6 of the 2022 World Series. At the time, he had no idea he wouldn’t have a chance. He had one year left on his contract, one more year to accomplish what he had been chosen to do.

Then came the torn ACL a week before opening day. He spent the 2023 regular season rehabbing, with the postseason pushing to get back on the field. It was on the doorstep when the NL Championship Series began. Things would have been different if the Phillies had won Game 6 or Game 7. The hardest endings are the ones you don’t see coming.

“It’s kind of part of it — moving all over, building new houses, meeting new people,” says Hoskins. “But, it’s not fun, just from a human point of view. I think the hardest part, you spend almost a decade making relationships, nurturing relationships. You start meeting people. And then those relationships end, at least as we know them. You’re not around them every day. So, like I said, it’s a part of it those people, of course.

Robert Frost’s three-word summation of life still stands. It goes on. You either go with it or you go crazy.

“One of our pillars”

Hoskins landed in a good spot. Even better than wanted is needed, and the Brewers need him in a way the Phillies never have. He is one of three hitters on the roster over the age of 28 and one of four with over 1,600 big league plate appearances. Of the 30 major league teams, only the Guardians have a younger lineup.

“One of our mainstays,” Brewers manager Pat Murphy called him.

That’s true in the clubhouse, where Hoskins’ locker room has its own gravitas, and in the lineup, where his powerful bat serves as the connective tissue in a lineup whose playing style reflects its youth. They put the ball in play (a .259 team batting average entering Sunday, second in the majors), get on base (a .335 OBP, which ranks first) and run often (78 steals , which ranks third). Despite Hoskins missing two weeks with a hamstring injury last month, his 27 RBIs are tied for third on the team.

“It’s different, isn’t it?” says Hoskins. “Coming from Philly, I certainly wasn’t young there, but I wasn’t old either. Age-wise and service-wise, it’s different, but it’s still nice. With all the young guys, there’s a lot of I’ve learned that they’re very comfortable with each other because they came up together through the minor leagues. shoot together in the big leagues, you can create really good chemistry that way, and I think that showed in the second half of my tenure there.

Milwaukee’s decision to sign Hoskins to a two-year, $34 million deal was the latest coup by a front office that has established itself as one of the most inventive in the majors. His controversial trades of veteran star pitchers now seem more daring than daunting. Starter Corbin Burnes brought in 25-year-old Joey Ortiz (.882 OPS this season), while Josh Hader brought them a promising young arm in Robert Gasser (2.57 ERA in five starts) and a valuable trade in outfielder Esteury Ruiz, which they later used to acquire a premiership hard-hitting catcher in William Contreras.

The end result is a young, energetic team that has a 7 game lead in the division and a 36-23 record that puts them just one game behind the Dodgers for the second National League playoff seed. While the Brewers’ staying power will depend heavily on the resilience of an injury-riddled rotation, the Phillies would be foolish to take them lightly.

“Yeah, it was hard to swallow,” says Hoskins. “It’s still hard to swallow. But hopefully I’ll get some closure from that perspective when I come back. I’ve seen the way these people and the Philly fans react to people coming back who made an impact there. It’s special. .”

It will be worth it. Everything. And much more.