Rhys Hoskins gives college coach many thrills — and unexpected recruiting boost

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Rhys Hoskins gives college coach many thrills — and unexpected recruiting boost

Reggie Christiansen remembers well his first trip to Philadelphia. How could he forget it? It was the summer of 1998. He had just graduated from Menlo College in California. What better way to mark the occasion than by jumping in a Volkswagen bus with four buddies and making a tour of ballparks around the country?

"We saw almost every minor-league and major-league park," Christiansen said. "Fifty days. Five guys. Twenty-three big-league parks, a bunch of minor-league parks, 10,000 miles.

"We saw Cal Ripken and the Orioles play the Phillies at Veterans Stadium. It awesome."

All these years later, Christiansen is back in Philadelphia this week. Veterans Stadium might be gone, but the baseball experience is still, to use his word, awesome.

Like everyone else in town, Christiansen has come down with a case of Rhys Hoskins-mania. But his is a special strain. After all, he was Hoskins' college coach at Sacramento State University.

On Thursday afternoon, Christiansen was on the field at Citizens Bank Park during batting practice. He was joined by another of his former players, Brennan Leitao, a pitcher in the St. Louis Cardinals' organization and a former teammate and roommate of Hoskins'.

Two nights earlier, the pair watched Hoskins hit two home runs in a 15-inning victory over the Miami Marlins. The night before, they watched the Phillies' rookie sensation belt another one in an 8-1 win. And Thursday night, yep, Hoskins did it again in a 10-0 win. It was his 18th homer in 34 games.

It has been an incredible run for Hoskins.

Ditto for his old friends from Sacramento State.

"What he's been doing up here is pretty incredible," Christiansen said. "I got a chance to see him play in San Francisco, and he hit a home run like five rows behind where I was sitting with my family and I felt like I was in a Disney movie.

"That's the best way I can describe this. It's been like a Disney movie."

Leitao agreed.

"Rhys is special," he said. "He deserves this. Everybody is really stoked for him."

It's hard to believe now, but there once was a time when Hoskins was an under-the-radar baseball talent. He received one college scholarship offer, and that was from Christiansen and the hometown school five miles down the road.

"We saw him the summer after his junior year," Christiansen recalled. "He actually played some games on our campus. We have a big parking structure in left field, and he hit a home run off the parking structure with a wood bat, and we just felt like he was going to hit so we made him an offer. We were actually bidding against ourselves because he had no other offers.

"We knew he had a chance to be special. He could always hit. He was never a big swing-and-miss guy and the power has continued to come. He hit like 12 home runs as a freshman so the power was there. It's just been a matter of him making the adjustments at each level. A lot of the credit really goes to the Phillies for instituting the leg kick and he has just gotten better each year."

Even though he put up big numbers at Sacramento State, Hoskins remained slightly under the radar. He was not drafted until the fifth round in 2014. That's OK. He's not the first power-hitting gold nugget that the Phillies unearthed in that round. Ryan Howard was a fifth-rounder in 2001.

Leitao recalled living and hanging out with Hoskins.

"I got to understand how competitive he is," Leitao said. "Playing ping-pong, playing corn hole, just little games here and there. He's a very competitive guy."

Nowhere did that competitiveness show more than in the batter's box.

"We had some friends hanging out on top of the parking structure at our field during a game and he hit one up there," Leitao said. "It cleared their heads and went halfway deep, and they were on the sixth floor."

Christiansen was scheduled to come East this weekend to attend an amateur tournament in Toronto. He hopes to do some recruiting. That has become a little easier since Hoskins arrived in the majors and started terrorizing major-league pitching.

"He's already helped our recruiting, no question," Christiansen said. "What he's doing, he's on ESPN every night and they're mentioning Sacramento State. It's really helped. We're kind of a mid-major program. Kids see what he's doing, he came from our program and it’s an easier sell. Kids are more receptive."

During their time in Philadelphia, Christiansen and Leitao found some time to do touristy things before heading over to the ballpark at night. They visited the Rocky steps one day.

"We walked 'em," Christiansen said with a laugh.

Their nights were spent watching Philadelphia's newest attraction rack up home runs. Fifteen. Sixteen. Seventeen. Eighteen.

And the best part? Hoskins is the same guy he was back at Sacramento State.

"He's an unbelievable kid," Christiansen said. "Extremely humble."

MLB Notes: Red Sox hire Alex Cora as new manager

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MLB Notes: Red Sox hire Alex Cora as new manager

BOSTON — The Boston Red Sox have hired Houston Astros bench coach Alex Cora to be their new manager.

The team made the announcement on Sunday, a day after Cora's Astros reached the World Series.

Cora replaces John Farrell, who was fired this month despite winning back-to-back AL East titles. Farrell's teams won the 2013 World Series, finished last twice and then in each of the past two years won the division but got eliminated in the first round of the playoffs.

A native of Puerto Rico, Cora is the first Hispanic manager in Red Sox history.

He played 14 years in the major leagues before retiring in 2011, including parts of four seasons with the Red Sox. He was a member of Boston's 2007 World Series team.

Cora has never managed before.

Reports: Mets offer manager job to Indians coach Callaway
NEW YORK — It appears the New York Mets have settled on their choice for a manager.

Several media outlets are reporting the team has offered the job to Cleveland Indians pitching coach Mickey Callaway. The New York Post was the first to report the Mets were in talks with Callaway, saying a deal is being finalized.

When contacted Sunday, multiple Mets officials declined to comment.

With his contract set to expire, Terry Collins stepped down at the end of the season after seven years as Mets manager and accepted a position as a special assistant to general manager Sandy Alderson.

The 42-year-old Callaway has been Cleveland's pitching coach for the past five seasons under highly successful manager Terry Francona. Led by ace right-hander Corey Kluber, the Indians led the major leagues with a 3.30 ERA this season, one year after reaching the World Series.

Callaway has never managed at any professional level.

Astros reach World Series, shut out Yankees in ALCS Game 7

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Astros reach World Series, shut out Yankees in ALCS Game 7


HOUSTON -- Jose Altuve embraced Justin Verlander as confetti rained down. An improbable thought just a few years ago, the Houston Astros are headed to the World Series.

Charlie Morton and Lance McCullers combined on a three-hitter, Altuve and Evan Gattis homered and the Astros reached the World Series for only the second time by blanking the New York Yankees 4-0 Saturday night in Game 7 of the AL Championship Series.

Next up for the Astros: Game 1 against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Tuesday night. Los Angeles opened as a narrow favorite, but Verlander, the ALCS MVP, and fellow Houston ace Dallas Keuchel will have plenty of rest before the World Series begins at sweltering Dodger Stadium.

"I love our personality," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "We have the right amount of fun, the right amount of seriousness, the right amount of perspective when we need it. This is a very, very unique group. To win 100 games and still be hungry is pretty remarkable."

The Astros will try for their first World Series title, thanks in large part to Altuve, the diminutive second baseman who swings a potent bat, and Verlander, who switched teams for the first time in his career to chase a ring.

Four years removed from their third straight 100-loss season in 2013, the Astros shut down the Yankees on consecutive nights after dropping three in a row in the Bronx.

The only previous time the Astros made it this far, they were a National League team when they were swept by the Chicago White Sox in 2005.

Hinch's club has a chance to win that elusive first crown, while trying to boost a region still recovering from Hurricane Harvey.

"This city, they deserve this," McCullers said.

Clutch defensive plays by third baseman Alex Bregman and center fielder George Springer helped Houston improve to 6-0 at Minute Maid Park in these playoffs and become the fifth team in major league history to capture a seven-game postseason series by winning all four of its home games.

Morton bounced back from a loss in Game 3 to allow two hits over five scoreless innings. Starter-turned-postseason reliever McCullers limited the Yankees to just one hit while fanning six over the next four. A noted curveballer, McCullers finished up with 24 straight breaking pitches to earn his first major league save.

Combined, they throttled the wild-card Yankees one last time in Houston. Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez and their New York teammates totaled just three runs in the four road games.

"I know people are going to talk about how we didn't win many games on the road. There were some other teams that haven't won many games on the road, either. We just happened to run into a very good team that just beat us," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.

The Astros also eliminated New York in the 2015 postseason, with Keuchel winning the AL wild-card game at Yankee Stadium.

CC Sabathia entered 10-0 with a 1.69 ERA in 13 starts this season after a Yankees loss. But he struggled with command and was gone with one out in the fourth inning.

Houston was up 2-0 in fifth when former Yankees star Brian McCann came through for the second straight game by hitting a two-run double. He snapped an 0-for-20 skid with an ground-rule RBI double to give Houston its first run on Friday night in a 7-1 win.

The Yankees, trying to reach the World Series for the first time since 2009, lost an elimination game for the first time this season after winning their first four in these playoffs. New York went 1-6 on the road this postseason.

After going 0 for 5 with runners in scoring position through the first three innings, the Astros got on the board with no outs in the fourth with the 405-foot shot by Gattis.

Altuve launched a ball off Tommy Kahnle into the seats in right field with one out in the fifth for his fifth homer this postseason. It took a while for him to see that it was going to get out, and held onto his bat until he was halfway to first base before flipping it and trotting around the bases as chants of "MVP" rained down on him.

Altuve finished 8 for 25 with two homers and four RBIs in the ALCS after hitting .533 with three homers and four RBIs in the ALDS against Boston.

Carlos Correa and Yuli Gurriel hit consecutive singles before Kahnle struck out Gattis. McCann's two-strike double, which rolled into the corner of right field, cleared the bases to push the lead to 4-0. Gurriel slid to avoid the tag and remained on his belly in a swimming pose at the plate for a few seconds after he was called safe.

It was just the second Game 7 in franchise history for the Astros, who lost to the Cardinals in the 2004 NLCS exactly 13 years earlier.

Sabathia allowed five hits and one run while walking three in 3 1/3 innings. He wasn't nearly as sharp as he was in a Game 3 win and just 36 of the 65 pitches he threw were strikes.

Morton got into trouble in the fifth, and the Yankees had runners at the corners with one out. Bregman fielded a grounder hit by Todd Frazier and made a perfect throw home to allow McCann to tag Greg Bird and preserve Houston's lead. McCann held onto the ball despite Bird's cleat banging into his forearm. Chase Headley grounded out after that to end the inning.

A night after Springer kept Frazier from extra-bases with a leaping catch, Judge returned the favor on a ball hit by Yuli Gurriel. Judge sprinted, jumped and reached into the stands to grab his long fly ball before crashing into the wall and falling to the ground for the first out of the second inning.

Springer had another nifty catch in this one, jumping in front of Marwin Gonzalez at the wall in left-center to grab a ball hit by Bird for the first out of the seventh.

With McCullers in charge, the Astros soon closed it out.

"It's not easy to get here. And I don't take any of this for granted. And this is what we play for," Verlander said. "These are the experiences that you remember at the end of your career when you look back, winning these games, just playing the World Series. Hopefully winning the World Series."