rhys hoskins

Q&A with Rhys Hoskins

The Phillies rising star on learning to love yoga and why mobility is so important

Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Rhys Hoskins struck the MLB like a bolt of lightning as a rookie in 2017. The Sacramento, California native hit 18 home runs and amassed 39 RBIs (runs batted in), more than any other player in baseball history through their first 34 career games.

After that debut, Hoskins applied his learnings to his offseason training program, which includes two to three days of yoga per week, lateral speed work, and hiking. It’s already paying off: Through 10 games, Hoskins is ranked first in the MLB with a .375 batting average. The 25-year-old’s interests surpass the field, as well. The baseball star has worked with the Muscular Dystrophy Association since high school, and he partnered with Philadelphia’s chapter to donate $100 per home run to their cause this season.

After a stretch of tough years for Phillies fans—the team hasn’t had a winning record since 2011—the future is looking very bright in Philadelphia. Furthermore sat down with Hoskins to talk about fueling for tough workouts, how to build mental strength, and his visit to the Great Wall of China.

What’s your fitness routine like during the off-season?

My training and workouts are geared towards keeping me as strong as possible through the long season, but most importantly, as healthy as possible. Since baseball has a long and strenuous schedule of playing almost every day for seven to eight months out of the year, it is inevitable that you aren’t going to feel at your best for every game. The workouts in the offseason and the maintenance work we focus on with our strength coaches during the season are geared towards keeping us on the field and as healthy as physically possible.

You had a historic run as a rookie. What was that like?

I have really stuck to one word when attempting to describe the run that I went on last year: surreal. There was a lot going on with just getting called up: Trying to figure out the ins and outs of a typical day in a Major League clubhouse, being in a new city for the first time, let alone having to make adjustments to MLB pitching. I have to admit, I’m not really sure the magnitude of what I was able to accomplish really sunk in for me until after the season. It was a whirlwind for sure, but one that I will never forget. 

What did you learn last year that you’ll apply to your workouts this season?

As a rookie, the one thing that stuck out to me specific to training is that baseball really is a long season. In the minor leagues, we typically play about 140 to 145 games a season. After being called up to the big leagues last year, the amount of games immediately jumps up to at least 162. So, I essentially played a month longer than I ever had before, and my body definitely felt it. I quickly learned that even though I thoroughly enjoy going in the gym and throwing a bunch of weight around with the thought in mind that I want to get as strong as possible today, it is a long season. So if that's what I intended on doing on top of playing every day, my body would break down and I would not be able to perform at my peak level. The old saying of ‘It’s is a marathon, not a sprint’ really hit me hard last year.

Outside the weight room, what are some of your favorite activities?

During the offseason, yoga has become a priority for me. Flexibility and mobility have really taken on a new meaning and importance once I got into professional baseball. Yoga is something that I will do two to three times a week in the offseason in order to try and really get ahead on some of the flexibility and mobility issues that I have. Aside from yoga, anytime I have the opportunity to be outdoors and to hike, I will take it. I grew up not too far from Lake Tahoe, so I was pretty spoiled with some of the views I would get on my hikes. 

What training advice would you give your younger self?

If I could go back, I would definitely stress the importance of the stretching and mobility exercises. I have learned how much better my body feels when those become a priority in my training regime, and I definitely wish I had learned that much earlier in my career.

How do you fuel for your workouts and games?

The importance of nutrition is something that I also learned so much about once I got into professional baseball. Especially for us baseball players, eating clean foods is what allows me to recover faster for a game the next day. It’s so crucial for me, and if we’re not fueling our body properly, we are not giving it the best chance to wake up feeling as close to normal as possible. A lot of the foods in our clubhouse are geared towards that: We have lean meats and a lot of seafood for before and after the games, along with some sort of healthy grains like quinoa or cauliflower rice. Before the game, I tend to eat a lot of fruit, looking for that natural energy boost from the natural sugars.

Do you have advice on getting to sleep after an energizing game (or workout)?

One of the things that I do to wind down and get my mind away from the game is read. My advice would be to find something that takes your focus away from the what you just did, which will help you relax. Often times, athletes lay in bed at night unable to fall asleep because of the adrenaline still pumping from their game or in thought about the game that was just played. If you can find something to get your mind and thoughts away from that, make that a part of your routine once you get home.

How did you adjust from playing first base in the minor league to the outfield in the MLB?

I looked at the position change as a challenge and an opportunity. It was time for me to become the best outfielder I could possibly be. Going from first base to the outfield was quite different. First base is all about short bursts, quick lateral movements, and footwork around the bag. Shifting to the outfield meant longer sprints, lengthening my throwing motion, and a whole new set of footwork. Luckily, a lot of the training I did to enhance my first base work, like jump rope, arm exercises, and lateral speed work, were still very applicable to my training for the outfield. 

Even the most talented hitters fail at the plate about seven times out of 10; How do you deal with the mental side of the game?

Self-talk and reflection are a couple things that I use to combat the amount of failure that is involved with baseball. I was lucky enough to be introduced to a book called The Inner Game of Tennis, by W. Timothy Gallwey while I was a sophomore in college. It changed the way I approached good games and bad games alike. Positive self-talk has become so important in my daily routine and I think it has had a lot to do with my ability to not dwell so much on how much failure baseball players encounter. Another thing I have to constantly remind myself is that it is a long season, and one game or even 10 at-bats won’t define what my season looks like. If I can truly trust the process I have set for myself, I have the utmost confidence that the results will be there.

This offseason you visited the Great Wall of China. What was that like and where will you go next?

The Great Wall of China was absolutely incredible. I found myself not really able to comprehend the sheer magnitude of the structure itself. My girlfriend and I spent four hours walking on the wall, and we only walked about six miles of it. Traveling has quickly become one of my favorite things to do. I really enjoy immersing myself in different cultures and figuring out what makes other people and cultures around the world tick. The fast pace of China, but also the importance of history within a culture, was very cool to experience firsthand. Next offseason, we hope to make our way to South Africa and embark on a safari.

When you travel for pleasure, do you find ways to maintain your healthy habits?

The last couple vacations I’ve taken were at a time during the offseason where I hadn’t started my intense training yet, but, I still enjoy breaking a sweat and moving around to avoid feeling stiff. I do my stretching and mobility exercises daily, and I will always travel with a golf ball, lacrosse ball, yoga band, and TRX to allow me to maintain the mobility routine that I have established for myself. The TRX allows me to do some bodyweight exercises pretty much anywhere, even on a beach in Thailand attached to a palm tree. 

How did you get involved with the Muscular Dystrophy Association?

My partnership with MDA started while I was in high school. As a requirement to graduate, I had to complete 50 hours of community service and chose to become a camp counselor at a summer camp for kids with muscular dystrophy. I was paired with a camper, Charlie, and got to hang out with him and all the other campers the whole week. Unfortunately, because of the disease, some of the kids are not able to perform some basic tasks that occur in our everyday life. This really hit home for me, and allowed me to really keep my life in perspective. The pure joy on the campers faces throughout the week is something that I couldn’t get away from, so I decided to voluntarily sign up for the camp as a counselor the next year. The MDA summer camp is a week for kids with muscular dystrophy to get away from their normal struggles of life for a bit, and just be a kid. That was something that I wanted to be a part of for as long as I could. I was lucky enough to partner with the local Philadelphia chapter, and we are striving to raise awareness about the disease, what the kids might have to go through on a daily basis, and what the families are faced with.

Photo: Getty Images