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Stars Align at Sportswriters Banquet


Honored athletes share wisdom and gratitude

Gabe Kapler is an interesting cat. Rhys Hoskins is hungry for more home runs in 2018. Kyle Lowry feels lucky to be alive, let alone a three-time NBA all-star. And Carson Wentz likes pressure put on him by fans and media. These were just a few observations taken by this scribe during the Philadelphia Sportswriters Annual Awards dinner Jan. 15 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Cherry Hill.

 

Kapler, the Phillies new progressive manager, was a speaker at the event and openly launched his plan to the guest list of over 500 fans. “I’m going to tell you all exactly what I am going to tell the coaches and the players when we get down to Clearwater [Florida],” he said. “We are building an environment to develop, flourish and excel at the Major League level. We want to win, ultimately, of course, but I look at it as we are a forest. The players are the plants and the coaches are the soil who will supply the nutrients and ingredients for the players to bring life to them in the ecosystem, so to speak. We don’t build baseball players. I hear a lot of people say that,” added the former Major Leaguer and, most recently, the Los Angeles Dodgers director of development. “These guys are already baseball players. Most have been playing at least 20 years of their lives. If we focus on “building” then we will limit their development and chance for improvement. My philosophy is to stimulate the players … though nutrition, sleep, taking care of their bodies [and] building lean tissue in the body, making them stronger mentally and physically in the process. We want these players to take control of their lives and their careers and be the best they can be.”

 

Kapler said the fans would see something that they may or may not have seen in recent years. “You are going to see a team that will fight for each other, support one another, and look out for another. That’s how you build a team.”

 

Kapler is a huge fan of Hoskins, who despite being a first baseman, who hit 18 home runs in 34 games last year, will start the year in left field. Hoskins won the newcomer of the year award. “I think the Phillies do a really good job of preparing you as a Phillies player. The food, hotels, travel, day-to-day commitment,” he said. “The minor leagues isn’t a 24-7 every day toll on your mentally and physically. I was very excited to come to the big leagues this year. It took me a while to get that first hit, but once I did, I was able to relax and I got into a groove and showed myself that I belonged.” Hoskins told the crowd the biggest thing he has learned in his journey to be a Phillies player. “You have to learn to accept failure,” he said. “This game is riddled with failure. You have to understand that is OK. That is hard for a young player or any player to understand. You just have to keep fighting when things aren’t going your way and keep your confidence. No one gets a hit or a strikeout every batter."

 

Hoskins said he is confident playing left field even though he came up as a first baseman through the organization. He played many games in left field last year to make room for incumbent Tommy Joseph. The Phillies spent big money on free-agent first baseman Carlos Santana in December. “I am comfortable out there,” he said. “I think I will get better with more reps. Like anything in life, you need reps to improve, and that’s what has already happened. So, I’ll play wherever [Kapler] wants me.”

 

Kyle Lowry had an unusual day Jan. 15. He was in town as his Toronto Raptors were playing the 76ers at the Wells Fargo Center. Lowry’s team not only lost the game, but he was ejected at the end of the game after jawing with 76ers’ rookie Ben Simmons. He didn’t miss being named the 2018 Native Son Award recipient at the dinner though. Lowry, who left after his speech to get back to his family in Canada because he was on school duty for his two sons, said that the award was special. “Being a kid from North Philly, many people didn’t make it out. I mean, I feel lucky to be 31 and alive from where I came from. A lot of the kids I knew [died] when I was younger. But I think that grit, toughness, and blue-collar mentality has stayed with me my whole life and made me the man and player I am today. I use that edge when I compete always. I am a Philadelphia guy through and through.”

 

Wentz, the Eagles’ popular quarterback and probable NFL MVP had he not been injured against the Rams in week 13, spoke to the crowd via a heartfelt video, as he was unable to be present to accept his award for Pro Athlete of the Year. That distinction, by the way, can go to any athlete in the country, not necessarily one with Philadelphia ties and is open to any sport. “I didn’t know much about Philadelphia when they traded up to draft me,” he said. “But it’s been a perfect fit. This is a hard-working blue-collar community, which is what was around me in North Dakota. It’s hard to believe my journey has taken me to where I am now. I have a lot of coaches and family members and friends and supporters along the way who believed in me. Some people complain about the intensity of the [analysis] of the sports teams here, but I personally like it and enjoy it. I know that the media members work very hard and the fans are so passionate. They put so much pressure on us and I like that because I always want to win and do the best. I also have high expectations and I criticize myself when I don’t play to my capabilities or we lose. This is a tough town but I love it and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

 

Stars Align at Sportswriters Banquet
Jeremy Treatman - Contributor

Jeremy Treatman is the founder and co-director of the Scholastic Play-by-Play Classics and Sports Broadcasting Camps. Over 50 NBA players, including Lebron James, Kevin Durant, and Rajon Rondo played in his events when they were in high school. Jeremy wrote high school sports for the INQUIRER for 10 years, and was the first TV reporter for the HIgh School Sports Show on Channel 29 from 1994-2001. He currently is Comcast's announcer for all high school games.

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