LESS THAN 12 hours after twirling a five-hit gem against the Braves, Cole Hamels was at Bayard Taylor Elementary in North Philadelphia on Wednesday morning to unveil the latest handiwork of The Hamels Foundation. Such is life for a $144 million ace with an insatiable appetite for philanthropy.
Through their foundation, Hamels and his wife, Heidi, donated $300,000 to the elementary school to transform what was formerly an empty lot into a modern playground complete with a soccer field, greenhouse and iPad/Tech learning center.
The couple always has displayed a relentless dedication to helping in the community. In the wake of signing an unprecedented 6-year, $144 million deal to remain with the Phillies, Hamels insists his charitable ties played a significant role.
"I think it is the city. Ultimately, it comes down to that," Hamels said on Wednesday. "You look around and you see all the Phillies shirts and the memorabilia the fans collect and it really shows the impact we can make. And we think this is really the best way."
Overlooking the renovations, the southwest wall of Bayard Taylor now includes a giant mural of Hamels in action, releasing what is undoubtedly one of his signature changeups. It's an image that would look pretty peculiar had he been shipped elsewhere before the July 31 trade deadline. But that became a moot point when he signed his extension on July 25. Fortunately for the kids in the Philadelphia area, Hamels will be here for the long haul and, for the time being, no one seems more pleased about that than Hamels.
"I can move on and focus on being comfortable," he said. "That is the tough thing about being in limbo - it's hard to be yourself. When you can actually plan out years and years down the line instead of knowing that you could be uprooted at any moment, you don't want the chaos."
If the contract negotiations caused any strain on the even-keeled lefty, it didn't show on the field. After Tuesday night's masterpiece, Hamels is on pace to surpass career highs in wins and strikeouts while sporting an impressive 3.14 ERA.
For more than six seasons near the top of the rotation, Hamels has pitched like an ace. The team has wagered a hefty part of its future financial flexibility on the idea that he can headline the next generation of Phillies teams, a notion Hamels seems at ease with.
"The accountability part is huge," Hamels said. "You know you can count on someone when they're putting in the hard work, when they show up in the offseason, when they're out with the fans. As an organization, you want to have certain types of players and I guess I have done everything to show them I am capable of doing that for a long time."
In fact, if anyone was panicking as the rumor mill churned throughout June and July, it was Heidi, who described their efforts in the Philadelphia community as "enrooted."
"It was a strain on me," she said, laughing. "Where are your kids going to go to school? What house are you going to live in? I wanted our kids to go to school here.
"And how many people do you know that can sell 2,000 tickets tomorrow to a ," she added. "That is a hard thing to pull off. The fact that we can do that in this city - I have a hard time believing we could recreate that anywhere else."
With the proverbial weight lifted, the Hamels seemed at ease as they navigated through a sea of jubilant children in blue shirts. The renovations, after an extensive selection process, had been 4 years in the making.
Now armed with a $144 million cash infusion and a comforting level of location certainty, it's safe to say they are nowhere near finished.
"Heidi and I have always tried to focus on being the best we can be with this stuff because you don't have a lot of opportunities to do it and it's not going to last forever. It will eventually be over and we don't want to regret anything," Hamels said.