Rhys Hoskins watched the fly ball travel to left field, using whatever energy he could muster to help it keep flying.
“Get up, Harp,” Hoskins yelled to help Bryce Harper’s hit soar over the fence at Marlins Park on Thursday afternoon. “Get up. We’ve got action, folks.”
There was no baseball to be played Thursday as opening day was postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic. But Hoskins still found a way to “get to Miami” as he played Marlins infielder Miguel Rojas in a virtual season opener on PlayStation’s MLB The Show.
The players played as their respective teams and talked throughout the telecast, which was streamed on YouTube. Harper’s homer, which Hoskins controlled him to hit in the seventh inning, broke a scoreless tie en route to a 2-0 Phillies win.
There’s still no telling when baseball will return this season. Having the real players mash buttons to control their video-game likenesses is the closest the Phillies could get to having baseball on opening day.
"This was a lot of fun,” Hoskins said. “It was good to get some baseball in on opening day. Stay safe. Be healthy. Be smart and stay home. This thing will pass and we’ll get to go on with life and get some baseball back.”
Hoskins’ lineup started with Andrew McCutchen, who would not have played Thursday if the season was not delayed but was deemed healthy for the video-game opener. Aaron Nola was the starting pitcher, but Hoskins almost took him out after just 66 pitches - two fewer pitches than Gabe Kapler let Nola throw in the 2018 opener - before he reconsidered. Nola pitched six scoreless innings.
Hoskins, playing as himself, grounded out with the bases loaded early in the game but walked to keep a rally going in the eighth.
“I do know how to do that,” said Hoskins, who led the National League last season with 116 walks.
The players made small talk as they pressed buttons, asking each other about their teammates, discussing their sneaker collections, and naming their favorite places to eat during road trips. Rojas, 31, named Philadelphia’s Federal Donuts as one of his top picks.
“Those chicken sandwiches there are unbelievable,” he said.
Major League Baseball continues to be optimistic that teams could gather in the middle of May for spring training. But that’s just a guess as everything depends on what happens with the pandemic. So for opening day, the league rolled out historical games for each team to have an all-day baseball marathon.
At 4:10 p.m. -- the time of the originally scheduled season opener -- McCutchen stepped to the plate at a virtual Marlins Park. The first pitch was a fastball, which McCutchen whiffed at. Baseball, at least in some fashion, was back.