Rhys Hoskins, after an hourlong drive, arrived in the summer of 2010 at a campground nestled in the Northern California mountains.
He was there to be a counselor for kids with muscular dystrophy. But Hoskins, then entering his senior year of high school, was mainly at Sly Park to fulfill the service hours required by his all-boys Catholic school in Sacramento.
One week -- seven days, six nights -- and Hoskins would be on track for graduation.
“Going into it, that’s what it was all about,” Hoskins said.
A week later, Hoskins returned home with so much more than just proof that he met the 50-hour threshold. Nearly a decade before Hoskins found himself as a leader of this season’s Phillies team -- a star player who demonstrates accountability and character -- Hoskins left the Muscular Dystrophy Association’s summer camp with perspective.
His life had its own challenges: His mother, Cathy, was waging a 14-year fight against breast cancer, which she would eventually lose, and Hoskins was working to land a college scholarship to keep his baseball dream alive.
Then he spent a week with Charlie, a 10-year-old boy confined to an electric wheelchair because Duchenne, a severe form of MD, had stunted his muscle growth.
“It was something that I had never really faced and never really seen,” Hoskins said. “My mom was sick, but she was always able to do everything. I left there reminded just how lucky I am that I get to live the life that I do.”
The following summer, Hoskins returned to be the camp’s head counselor before leaving for college at Sacramento State. His baseball dream was on track. He linked up with an MDA chapter when he was a Phillies minor-leaguer in Reading and selected the Philadelphia MDA as the recipient of the grant Hoskins received when he won the Phillies’ minor-league service award.
His baseball dream was close and Hoskins remembered the summer camp that provided perspective. That connection will continue June 8, when Hoskins and his fiancé, Jayme Bermudez, who was also a camp counselor, host the Philadelphia MDA Muscle Walk at the Navy Yard. The event aims to raise $150,000 for muscular dystrophy research.
Hoskins is one of the MDA’s leading advocates. He and Bermudez host MDA families at Phillies games and visited camp last summer. The couple was honored in January with the organization’s “Champion of Spirit" award.
Hoskins is no longer looking for service hours.
“It’s nothing I ever expected to be a part of,” Hoskins said. “It’s just something that has left a lasting impact on me. One thing that’s tricky about the life that we live is that we’re all over the place. But I also get to meet a bunch of new families. I have a whole new group of people who need help here in Philadelphia. It just puts you in a cool place.”
The Phillies are playing this season with a patch on their right sleeves with the initials of former president David Montgomery, who died May 8 after a five-year battle with cancer. Hoskins, who met Montgomery when he was a minor-leaguer, called Montgomery the “most genuine, caring, and compassionate man” he knew.
It is safe to assume that Montgomery thought just as highly of Hoskins, the type of player Montgomery wanted his Phillies to be.
Montgomery, who grew up in Roxborough, stressed to his players to be part of the community. Our first name, he told them, is Philadelphia.
Cole Hamels said last week at Wrigley Field that Montgomery introduced him to the “power of a platform besides baseball.” Larry Bowa, who met Montgomery in 1971, said the Phillies won’t be the same without him.
“He taught players to give back to the community,” Bowa said. “That was important to him. You don’t just play the game. He taught everyone how to act like a big-leaguer, on and off the field.”
Hoskins is one of baseball’s young stars and a feared slugger in the middle of a lineup built to intimidate. But he has proven to be so much more since reaching the major leagues in the summer of 2017. Hoskins has been a player whom the man memorialized on his sleeve would be proud of.
The MDA Camp had a weeklong fairy tale skit during the summer of 2010. Hoskins played Prince Charming. He stayed up through the night to turn Charlie over in his sleep and helped him go to the bathroom.
Hoskins remembered the reactions from the children when they were lifted into the handicap-accessible swimming pool, most of them dipping into a pool for the first time. He returned the next summer, caught up with Charlie, and met even more kids as the head counselor. He was the sheriff in that summer’s skit.
“I got to have fun, too,” Hoskins said.
The camp ended and Hoskins traveled down the mountain and back home to Sacramento. His baseball dream was starting to become clear. He signed a college scholarship that winter -- at the only school that recruited him -- and began to chart a course to the major leagues.
Seven years later, Hoskins reached the Phillies. Two weeks in, major-leaguers were allowed to wear T-shirts of a charity of their choice during batting practice and postgame interviews as part of the inaugural “Players Weekend.”
Hoskins’ choice was simple. He began each day with an MDA shirt, homered in all three games, and wore his shirt while cameras filmed his postgame comments.
His career was just beginning, but he still carried perspective from the summer camp that helped mold a player who would define the ideals of the three-letter patch stitched onto his sleeve.
“I enjoyed the heck out of myself and saw how much the kids enjoyed it,” Hoskins said. “I would’ve stayed another week in a heartbeat.”