‘Pee Wee’s a pillar in there’: Rhys Hoskins brings new dimensions to hopeful Milwaukee Brewers

Former Philadelphia Phillies standout Rhys Hoskins embraces a new chapter in his career with the Milwaukee Brewers. (Photo by Ethan Briggs/Cronkite News)

PHOENIX – The nickname “Pee Wee” is often used to describe those of short stature in a playful way. Such a moniker is no stranger in the history of baseball, most famously associated with Hall of Fame shortstop Harold “Pee Wee” Reese. The de facto captain of the great Brooklyn Dodgers teams through the 1940s and 50s, the 5-foot-10 Reese made five trips to the Fall Classic before making the final out to lift his first trophy in 1955.

Fast-forward almost 70 years, and there is another player with the nickname “Pee Wee” searching for a championship, only this one is no small marble. At 6-foot-4, Rhys Hoskins is a mammoth of a man at first base, one the Milwaukee Brewers believe could anchor their power-deprived lineup, which has fallen short in the playoffs five out of the past six years.

“The winning that the Brewers have done speaks for itself,” said Hoskins, who sat out the entire 2023 season due to an ACL injury. “Exciting clubhouse. I try to surround myself with really good players if I can, and there’s a ton of that here in this clubhouse.”

The Brewers are no strangers to October baseball, yet their fans still await the heights of a National League pennant, last seen in 1982. With Hoskins having captured the flag with Philadelphia in 2022, a hungry Brewers roster has wasted no time in learning what it takes to get over the hump from one of the two World Series veterans in the room.

“Gotten to talk to him a good amount, really good dude,” outfielder Joey Wiemer said of his new teammate. “Definitely a guy that there’s a ton I can learn from. There’s a pedigree it takes to win and keep winning in the postseason. Something to pick his brain on, the feels of it.”

Rhys Hoskins joins the Milwaukee Brewers lineup in hopes of bolstering their offensive firepower and leading the team to postseason success. (Photo by Ethan Briggs/Cronkite News)

Rhys Hoskins joins the Milwaukee Brewers lineup in hopes of bolstering their offensive firepower and leading the team to postseason success. (Photo by Ethan Briggs/Cronkite News)

With Hoskins, 30, fully healthy in the offseason, the Brewers swooped in to ink him to a two-year, $34 million deal in January. The contract includes a player option after the upcoming 2024 season.

“I was excited,” infielder Brice Turang added when he heard of the signing. “The dude’s great—a great baseball player, a great person. And he wants to win. That’s what you want. You want competitors, guys who go out there and try to win every pitch. He does that.”

What Hoskins also does is hit. And hit them long and far. Since debuting in 2017, Hoskins has smashed 148 home runs over the course of six seasons, clubbing 27 or more in four of those campaigns. While Milwaukee has made its name on the mound in recent years, the team’s ability to drive in runs with one swing was a weakness in 2023, with the Brewers finishing third to last in the bigs in team home runs.

Management hopes Hoskins’ arrival will quickly fix the team’s most glaring issue. However, after a year away from the game, even Hoskins has to take time to regain his confidence.

“There is a lot of information out there about what it takes to return to sport after a big injury like that,” Hoskins said. “It involves relearning and regaining confidence in your feet without having to look at them.”

Even as “Pee Wee” builds himself back up to the destroyer of baseballs, new Brewers manager Pat Murphy was adamant that Hoskins’ character and experience are rubbing off on a young and promising group.

“He’s a great influence on how he’s done it so far, just being himself,” said Murphy, who gave Hoskins the quirky nickname. “Pee Wee’s a pillar in there already.”

In what Hoskins describes as a new chapter of his career, the nickname “Pee Wee” comes with him to his new digs in Milwaukee. Hoskins will play an enormous role in the Brewers’ pursuit of another NL Central title and a longer stay in October than in recent years, as he’s already proven himself capable of doing elsewhere.

In his six-year big league career, Hoskins has had his larger-than-life moments. One of the anchors of the Philadelphia Phillies lineup since his debut in 2017, the Sacramento native became one of the franchise’s poster boys over the years.

As Philadelphia came out of nowhere during a Cinderella run to the 2022 World Series, Hoskins launched six home runs in 17 playoff games, including the famous bat spike blast in the NLDS and a long ball in the Fall Classic.

Entering 2023 at spring camp in Clearwater, Florida, the Phillies came in with the sole goal of finishing the job and capturing the franchise’s third championship with their longest-tenured player in Hoskins holding down first base in the middle of the order. But in a twist of unfortunate events, they embarked on that journey without him.

Milwaukee Brewers first baseman Rhys Hoskins, known as 'Pee Wee,' gears up for the upcoming season after signing a lucrative contract following a season-ending ACL injury in 2023. (Photo by Ethan Briggs/Cronkite News)

Milwaukee Brewers first baseman Rhys Hoskins, known as ‘Pee Wee,’ gears up for the upcoming season after signing a lucrative contract following a season-ending ACL injury in 2023. (Photo by Ethan Briggs/Cronkite News)

Just days away from the start of the regular season, Hoskins tore his ACL, leaving a massive power void in the Philadelphia lineup that would be exposed in an eventual NLCS defeat to the Arizona Diamondbacks. For Hoskins, watching his teammates fall short of their dream wasn’t easy, but what made it worse for him was not being able to have a hand in the outcome as he observed the disappointment unfold from afar.

“I was lucky enough to be around and do my rehab,” Hoskins recalled. “But when you’re not on the field, and you’re not playing every day, I just thought it was better to take a backseat and let those guys who were doing it every day be the driving force in the clubhouse.”

Whether it was this self-distancing or Bryce Harper’s reassignment to first base, Philadelphia deemed Hoskins’s powerful bat and energetic vibe non-vital in its search for glory, allowing Hoskins to walk in free agency this past winter. With Hoskins nearing a return to the field if the Phillies had advanced to the World Series last October, he entered the offseason relatively healthy and with one goal: to re-establish himself on a winning team.

Like the nickname of Pee Wee next to Rhys, Hoskins and the Brewers seems to be a perfect marriage. And with Hoskins socking two homers en route to a 1.154 OPS early this spring, the honeymoon phase looks to be in full swing.

Sports Reporter, Phoenix

Scott Sandulli expects to graduate in May 2025 with a bachelor’s degree in sports journalism. Sandulli has interned as a staff writer for affiliates of Rivals and SB Nation

Ethan Briggs(he/him/his)
Sports Visual Journalist, Phoenix

Ethan Briggs expects to graduate in May 2024 with a bachelor’s degree in sports journalism. Briggs has worked with Blaze Radio for three years.