- Cole has an aunt in Delaware who is a huge Phillies fan.
In 1998, when the San Diego Padres clinched the National League West on September 13, a 14-year-old lefty was among the 60,823 excited fans at Qualcomm Stadium.
And Cole Hamels, who cheered that day from his lucky perch in the owner's box, wondered if someday he too might pitch there.
With Qualcomm Stadium now home only to the Chargers, Hamels had to make his San Diego debut at PETCO Park.
Cole grew up about 25 minutes north of PETCO Park and graduated from Rancho Bernardo High School, also the alma mater of Texas third baseman Hank Blalock. He remembers former Padres Gary Sheffield, Bip Roberts and Fred McGriff, and emulated Kevin Brown, Andy Ashby and Sterling Hitchcock. His favorite player was Tony Gwynn, however.
Watching closer Trevor Hoffman baffle hitters with his changeup taught Hamels something else.
"He was definitely the guy I watched a lot," Hamels said. "He had a big impact on that pitch. He would throw that pitch so much where they knew it was coming and still couldn't hit. That had a big impact on me."
It's not a coincidence that Hamels' best pitch is his changeup. (Ken Mandel-MLB.com-7/16/06)
Hamels grew up watching Trevor Hoffman close out games for the Padres, entering to "Hell's Bells," while coming out of the bullpen to the mound. Hearing this, Hoffman took an interest in Hamels.
"Absolutely," Hoffman said. "Once there's a connection, it's fun to watch. It becomes part of the territory. You stick around long enough, some of these kids will grow up and make it to the big leagues before you're out of there. It's cool that I've been able to stick around long enough and have an impact on somebody who wasn't just dreaming about being in the big leagues."
Hamels did that, too, but made it a reality in May 2006. A little more than a year later, the two became All-Star contemporaries.
Hamels mother, Amanda is a teacher, and his father, Gary, works as an assistant school-district superintendent.
Hamels received a score of 1510 (out of 1600) on the SAT test his senior year of high school.
Cole and one of his best friends, Scott Lonergan, played a lot of beach volleyball.
"Cole and I were probably the most killer two-on-two beach volleyball combo ever to hit Del Mar," Lonergan said. "We'd fuel up with burritos from Roberto's Taco Shop and then we'd go out and just dominate."
Lonergan pitched in the Red Sox organization in 2008.
Not long after he signed his first pro contract, Cole's teammates gave him the nickname of Hollywood Hamels.
SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA DUDE
- Hamels was like most Southern California kids. He liked to sleep until noon, then go hang out at the beach. Cole enjoys playing beach volleyball at Del Mar Beach with his friends, then cook out and ride a body board. For music, he goes for L.A.-based rock band Lifehouse. He also likes punk, rap, rock and even country music.
He likes to go to movies, then grab a burger at In-N-Out or feast at local Mexican restaurant Sombrero's.
"My hobby is watching movies," Hamels said. "I'm trying to be the Siskel & Ebert of the team." His favorite actor is Matt Damon, and favorite actress is Angelina Jolie.
Cole likes to surf, play computer games, beach volleyball. He has developed a fondness for country music, expecially Tim McGraw and Faith Hill, Rascal Flatts and Keith Urban. But his favorite music is actually alternative rock.
- During the offseason before 2003 spring training, Hamels worked out three times a week with fellow-Californian and Cubs pitcher Mark Prior. Cole said he picked up a lot about pitching from him.
- In 2003, Cole was named the winner of the Paul Owens Award, given the best pitcher and position player, respectively, in the organization's minor league system.
- In 2003, Hamels was USA Today Sports Weekly's Minor League Pitcher of the Year. And Baseball America ranked Cole as the #1 prospect in the Phillies organization, entering the 2004 season. And before 2005 spring training, the magazine had Cole as the third best prospect in the Philadelphia farm system.
- Before the 2006 season, Baseball America had Hamels back at the top—as the Phillies top prospect in their farm system.
In January 2005, Cole was involved in an incident at a Clearwater bar called Razzel's Lounge. It almost sidelined his career before it started.
At Razzel's, there's cold Jägermeister on tap and SMOKING PERMITTED signs on the front doors. In short, Razzel's is not the kind of establishment the Phillies like their players to frequent. In fact, the organization has for years assessed a $500 fine to any minor leaguer whose car is spotted in the parking lot.
It was in that lot, however, that Hamels broke his pitching hand during a brawl between a handful of minor leaguers and a few Clearwater residents. One of the latter, a young man named T.J. Ferrol, hit on the girlfriend of Edward Buzachero, a member of the Blue Jays organization (who train in nearby Dunedin).
The groups exchanged insults and eventually punches. In the end, a friend of Ferrol's was thrown into a nearby lake and Ferrol himself was stomped on and kicked in the face. He was hospitalized and received eight stitches beneath his left eye.
The Phillies' general manager at the time, Ed Wade, was apoplectic. ("I've never been yelled at like that in my life," says Hamels.) And Wade rescinded the young pitcher's invitation to big league camp, where he wouldn't have been of much use anyway with a fractured hand.
The other Phillies minor leaguers involved in the fight, lesser pitching prospects Lee Gwaltney and Beau Richardson, were released—the former almost immediately and the latter during the season. "We try to treat all of our players fairly," says Phillies G.M. Ruben Amaro, who was then an assistant to Wade, "but some players we treat more fairly than others." (Hamels still counts Gwaltney and Richardson as friends.)
Ferrol declined to press charges. "Both sides were partying," he says. "It happens. I hope Hamels knows that I have no hard feelings."
Those close to Hamels consider the fight an aberration ("He's a cruise ship, not a battleship," says Lonergan), an expression of fraternal loyalty more than anything else, but Hamels recognizes the damage the incident did to his reputation. (Ben Reiter-Sports Illustrated-2/23/09)
- When Cole was called up to the Phillies on May 10, 2006, the first call he made after his callup went to girlfriend, Heidi Strobel, the "Survivor: Amazon" contestant and August 2003 Playboy cover girl. (They met during a 2004 exhibition game in Clearwater, Florida.)
Next call? His parents. "I know my Mom won't like that," Hamels said.
In 2004, when Hamels met Heidi Strobel, his name was familiar only to the most devoted Phillies fans and baseball draftniks, while she already had a firm understanding of life in the public's unforgiving gaze—and how to prosper in it. A year earlier she had appeared as a contestant in Survivor: The Amazon, the sixth season of the reality TV series. (She finished fifth, but she and the competition's eventual winner, Jenna Morasca, became famous for taking off all their clothes in return for some Oreos and peanut butter.)
By the end, she says, she weighed 70 pounds and was paralyzed from the waist down for almost a month due to a bite from a poisonous spider. After the show aired, she parlayed her fame into a cover appearance with Jenna in the August 2003 issue of Playboy. One of those took Heidi to Bright House Field, the home of the Class A Clearwater Threshers in Florida. Hamels, who had received a $2 million signing bonus as the 17th overall pick in the 2002 draft, was spending most of the 2004 season at Clearwater on the disabled list.
Cole approached Heidi at the urging of two of the ballpark's security guards. ("I told him, 'She's a pretty girl, she don't drink, she don't smoke—you should meet her,'" recalls one of the guards, Woody Woodard.) Within a few weeks, after Cole had flown to her hometown of Buffalo, Mo., they were dating.
They were married in 2006. "Part of what attracted me was how mature he was," Heidi says. "I didn't know he was young"—she is five years his senior—"I thought we were the same age." (Ben Reiter-Sports Illustrated-2/23/09)
On December 31, 2006 (New Year's Eve), Cole married Heidi in her hometown of St. Louis.
Asked about when he met Heidi, Cole said, "She had an appearance when I was in A-ball in Clearwater (in 2004); it was Survivor day at the ballpark. I went to get her autograph, and I asked her out. She said yes, if I'd come to Missouri—Springfield, where she's from. I flew out two weeks later. We went to a concert and a movie: Cellular. I still have the movie-ticket stub."
In 2009, Cole and his wife, Heidi, were in the process of trying to adopt a child from Ethiopia.
"I think it's going to be a real fun experience for us," Hamels said. "It's a grueling process we have to go through to see if we're fit parents. If I can bring a kid into this life and provide for somebody who doesn't have everything that is involved with growing up—it's about trying to help someone out."
Cole and Heidi celebrated the birth of their first child, a son, Caleb Michael, on October 9, 2009.
The couple still intends to travel to Ethipoia to adopt a child. "We're going to adopt a girl, and it will be great for her to grow up with a brother. They'll be like twins," Cole said.
Hamels and Strobel have shown a consistent interest in Africa. The Cole Hamels Foundation aims to improve education in American inner cities as well as in Malawi, where the couple initially planned to adopt a child. But Malawian rules require parents to live in the country for a year before adoption, so the family turned to Ethiopia.
Their second son, Braxton was born on November 2, 2011.
During the offseason before 2008 spring training, Cole worked out with legendary pitching instructor Tom House. Actually, Hamels has been working with House since he was 14 years old.
As far as learning the game from a teammate, Hamels says he learned the most from Jamie Moyer.
In January 2008, Cole took a vacation to Australia.
In 2008 spring training, Cole was asked what he was shooting for for the upcoming season.
"I'd like to get the Cy Young this year," he said. "But I know there's some steep competition out there. There are some great pitchers in the National League, especially with [Johan] Santana and [Dan] Haren coming over."
Hamels, who had not pitched a no-hitter at any level of play, has carried no-hit bids into the seventh inning each of the last two seasons.
"I'm striving for it," he said. "It's exciting. I want the fans who watch me pitch coming to the ballpark thinking I might throw a no-hitter that night. I definitely want one. And I want it to be on a nationally televised game with a sellout crowd." (Editor's note: Cole eventually got his no-no. See below.)
If Hamels can stay healthy, rack up some 20-win seasons, win a Cy Young award or two, toss in a no-hitter, and a have some postseason success, he might one day be worthy of the Hall of Fame.
"Being in the Hall of Fame shows you did really well for a long time," he said. "That's something I want. I don't want to be out of the game in the snap of a finger. I want to do well for a long time."
Asked where his inner drive comes from, Hamels said, "Growing up and being a boy, you always want to be good at something, whether it's in the classroom or on the playground," the San Diego native said. "Sports just came easily for me, easier than the classroom. Instead of homework, I'd be in the backyard throwing a baseball.
"I realized when I was young that I had some baseball talent, and I always wanted to be the best. My parents always told me, 'Life passes quickly. Go out and give everything all you can.' I guess that's what drives me." (Jim Salisbury-Philadelphia Inquirer-3/02/08)
One of Hamels' favorite parks is Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati. "This is one of my favorite parks," he said. "A lot has happened here. When you feel really comfortable at a field, it's always exciting to go there."
Myers attributes Hamels' favor to Great American Ball Park's high pitcher's mound.
"I think it's the tallest mound in the league," he said. "The angles that I pitch from, to their eye, I don't think they can register the ball as well."
Cole says if he wasn't a baseball player, "I would probably have to be into something that has to do with exercise. So, I might have been a physical education teacher, a personal trainer, or something in that sort of department."
After his baseball career, Hamels said, "I hope it's relaxing. I also hope I'm able to make a difference with kids. Not just teaching them about baseball skills, but life skills."
Heidi started a company with her sister, Dawn, called sistasshirts.com. They produce and sell inspirational T-shirts for female runners.
Heidi is a dedicated runner with a master's degree in exercise physiology.
Cole is humble and quick to laugh at himself. He casts himself as the rube in many of the personal stories he tells.
There was the time that shortstop Jimmy Rollins and a few other teammates invited him to play cards on the team plane. ("I was like, 'Sure, I know how to play poker,' but it wasn't poker, and the next thing I know, all my meal money's gone.")
And the misunderstanding over the 2010 Chevy Camaro he won as the World Series MVP and promised in a postgame interview to give to Heidi. ("I kept waiting for them to deliver it, so I finally called and they said you have to order it online, and it'll take eight months. I was like, I thought I just got the one that was on the field!")
And the awe with which he still remembers his Letterman appearance, because of the chopper ("I'd never been in one before!") and because actor Paul Rudd, a guest on that night's show, congratulated him backstage. ("I was like, You, Paul Rudd, watch baseball? And you know who I am?") (Ben Reiter-Sports Illustrated-2/23/09)
On May, 8 2012 Hamels was suspended for hitting Bryce Harper of the Washington Nationals. Hamels admitted that he deliberately threw at Harper. "I was trying to hit him," the two-time all-star said. "I'm not going to deny it. I'm not trying to injure the guy. I think they understood the message, and they threw it right back. That's the way, and I respect it."
"That's something I grew up watching, that's kind of what happened. So I'm just trying to continue the old baseball because I think some people are kind of getting away from it," Hamels said.
In 2013 he was selected to be one of the two players to have their pictures on the wrapper of "Big League Chew" brand of bubble gum. The other player was Matt Kemp.
In a promotion video for the first person shooter video game Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, Hamels appeared denouncing a phenomenon in the game known as grenade spam. The video is currently on YouTube and led a competing game to Modern Warfare 2, Battlefield: Bad Company 2, to release a YouTube video of their own, this time featuring New York Yankees pitcher C.C. Sabathia. The video with Sabathia pokes fun at Hamels' video while promoting Battlefield.
In February 2015, Hamels arrived to Phillies camp already the subject of incessant trade speculation because the Phillies are trying to dismantle and rebuild their team in an attempt to compete again in a few years. But the talk really picked up when he told USA Today he wants to win and, "I know it's not going to happen here."
Hamels never recanted, but he backed away from those words, understanding he is going to be in a Phillies uniform until somebody tells him otherwise. In other words, he needs to make the best of the situation. He also appreciates the Phillies and the fans, and everything that has happened to him in his career.
He has a home outside Philadelphia.
Hamels does not want to disrespect anybody. If he is going to leave, he wants to leave on good terms.
"This is where I am, and this is what I'm doing," he said. "To be able to pitch at Citizens Bank [Park] is going to be the vision I had. For what it is and what people want to make it, it doesn't affect me. I'm just happy enough that I get to go pitch and get guys out and try to pitch a full season."
Other teams have expressed serious interest in Hamels, including the Padres, Rangers and Blue Jays. Maybe one of those teams (or the always exciting mystery team) finally makes the offer the Phillies want to trade their ace.
In the meantime, Hamels will pitch for a team moving in an unfamiliar direction. This is the first time Hamels has opened the season with the Phillies not expected to compete for the postseason. In fact, many think this team could lose 100 games for the first time since 1961, when it lost 107.
"I have no control over a certain direction," Hamels said. "An organization, they have a bigger picture that they have to worry about. As a player, we really have to take the straight and narrow approach. We have a job to do, people are counting on us, and I think that's kind of what an organization has to worry about." (T Zolecki - MLB.com - April 2, 2015)
The sixth annual Diamonds and Denim charity event was again put on by Hamels, his wife, Heidi, and their Hamels Foundation for the benefit of Philadelphia area schools. Hamels made it abundantly clear that regardless of where he plays baseball, Philadelphia will be his home.
"I've tried to make a big stance of this is where we live," Cole said. "This is where we make our home and this is where we're kind of growing up. We're learning a lot. It's a different vibe than what we grew up with. But we cherish it and we cherish the knowledge, and we're trying to give back everything that we can to the city, because without them, it's really hard to do what I do."
Hamels went on to say that everything he does as a baseball player is made possible because of the support he gets from the Philadelphia fan base, and he also said the same goes for his foundation. Over the past six years, he said he's been able to see tangible results with his foundation through the continued work with principals, students and parents.
Many of Hamels' current and former Phillies teammates were on hand for the function, including manager Ryne Sandberg and Ryan Howard. Howard agreed with Hamels' sentiment that the best part of this function was seeing how the foundation has grown over the years.
"It's always great to be able to come out and give back," Howard said. "We've been doing this for the last four or five years. Every year it gets better and better." (Suss - mlb.com - 6/25/15)
Cole and Heidi Strobel were married on Dec. 31, 2006, and spent their honeymoon traveling through the southern part of Africa. They found it a beautiful land, but the harsh, widespread poverty was also hard to miss.
"It was breathtakingly beautiful, but we still saw some of the villages of the refugees," Cole said. "You have to stop and wonder, what kind of life do they get to live, what kind of opportunities are they going to get out of that situation. When you do travel to a couple of Third World countries, we went to Zimbabwe, it kind of shows you we have it a lot better than you think and they they don't have the means to get out of the situation."
Hamels grew up in San Diego with the benefit of an excellent public school education. Heidi is from a small town in the Missouri Ozarks, a region where 25 percent of the population lives under the poverty level. She was a public school teacher and has a master's degree in education with a specialty degree in international education.
What they learned and absorbed from their backgrounds, travels and experiences led them in 2008 to establish The Hamels Foundation. The foundation's mission is dedicated to enriching the lives of children through the power of education by giving them the tools to achieve their goals. To date the foundation has donated a total of just over $3.6 million, roughly split between their projects in the small, impoverished African country of Malawi and here in the United States. The foundation is the largest provider of grants to the Philadelphia school system, and the Hamels want to get involved in the Dallas-Fort Worth area as well.
"We're really excited to be able to open doors there, get to know the community," said Hamels, traded from Philadelphia to Texas last season. "This whole year we are really going to just explore and let people know we are here and we want to make a difference. We want to be a part of it. We are open to suggestions. We are really fortunate to be where we are, and when you have a platform where you can make a difference, and be a good citizen, that's what has ultimately driven us to give back. Not to do it for publicity, but truly deep down we feel obligated and a desire to give back and see improvements in a lot of different areas that get overlooked."
The Hamels Foundation is run by associates out of Springfield, Mo., but all operating costs are paid for the Hamels. That means 100 percent of every donation goes directly to one of the foundation's projects. Hamels said it's all about trying to break the vicious cycle of poverty and disease that have imprisoned people. They also want to make sure their projects have a long-term impact.
"We are not going to be able to solve every problem," Hamels said. "But hopefully there are going to be a few people every year that are going to have an epiphany that this opportunity will help push them. That makes a difference with their kids. You want to break the cycle. If you can break the cycle one kid at a time, you are going to make a difference. So instead of a cycle, you have a pyramid where you can reach 5, 10, 20 people. That's what we're hoping for.
"We don't want it to be there for one or two years, we want it to be there for 10, 20, 30 years. That's how you make a difference." (Sullivan - MLB.com - 3/2/16)
Chris Gimenez spends his mound visits with Cole Hamels chatting about the pitcher's magnificent hair.
"Last year I asked Cole what he does to make his hair so nice since I don't have any! I'm not kidding either! I do that so for a split second [and] it gets the pitcher to stop thinking about what he is doing wrong and get re-focused," Gimenez said.
And what does Cole do to keep his hair so nice?
"Coconut oil!" (Gemma Kaneko | March 9, 2016)
Cole came home to Southern California, pitched a scoreless inning in front of his loved ones, and his 2016 All-Star experience lived up to the expectations. There were a couple of exceptions.
Hamels, who grew up in San Diego and starred at Rancho Bernardo High School, tripped in his hotel room at 3:45 a.m. the morning of the game and was in the hospital getting stitches on his chin at 5 a.m. Several hours later, he was locked out of Petco Park for 30 minutes when he chose the wrong entrance to the stadium following the All-Star Game Red Carpet Show presented by Chevrolet.
Cole was still all smiles after the American League's 4-2 victory against the National League in the 2016 All-Star Game. He pitched a scoreless third inning. (Sanchez - MLB.com - 7/13/16)
Hamels and his wife Heidi established The Hamels Foundation to support education efforts in the United States and in the impoverished African nation of Malawi. The Foundation is partnered with the Global AIDS Interfaith Alliance.
Hamels has also become involved in the Texas Rangers' MLB Urban Youth Academy in West Dallas. He was the Phillies' 2009 Roberto Clemente nominee and the 2012 Humanitarians of the Year by the Philadelphia Sports Writers Association.
"We are really fortunate to be where we are, and when you have a platform where you can make a difference, and be a good citizen, that's what has ultimately driven us to give back," Hamels said in Spring Training. "Not to do it for publicity, but truly deep down we feel obligated and a desire to give back and see improvements in a lot of different areas that get overlooked." (Sullivan - MLB.com - 9/7/16)
Hamels hit his first major league home run the same night he gave up a home run to the opposing pitcher, Matt Cain.
Hamels is most proud of the school he and his wife have built -- and are continuing to build -- in the African nation of Malawi. The process started in 2001 and continues today. They are educating 2,500 orphans right now and continue to expand.
Instant love: Hamels met his wife, who was on the TV show "Survivor," at a baseball game and asked for her autograph.
"She didn't know who I was, which worked out perfectly, because I knew she was genuine," he says. (Kruth - MLB.com - 10/3/16)
Cole used to play catch with veteran pitchers like Roy Oswalt, Jamie Moyer, Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee when they were together with the Phillies. Hamels learned a few things about how to do it when a pitcher gets older.
"I was watching and remembering what type of catch, what kind of work they were doing and the reason why," Hamels said. "Now it's starting to click in. But I still text those guys when I have questions, because they have tremendous insight."
Hamels realized it's not maximum effort on every throwing session and workout between starts. It's about being smart to stay strong and fresh. Moyer must have known something about it, because he was pitching at age 47..
"If I could do that, it would be outstanding, but I don't know if I could do that," Hamels said. "We all see the trends in baseball. I don't think anybody is going to pitch past 45."
Hamels saw the trends this past offseason and took notice. Some older pitchers were having trouble getting jobs.
"So while I'll be following in that direction, I don't want to be following in those footsteps," Hamels said. "You have to be very aware that the game is shifting. You can look at the age of teams and how they are changing and fast guys are coming in and out of the league, I'd like to continue to maintain my presence in this league. I have to be healthy, I have to be smart and I have to make the adjustments. Because if you don't, you're going to be pushed out really quickly."
Hamels said he's not ready to be pushed out. He was a 15-game winner in 2016, and he pitched 200-plus innings for the seventh straight season."That's what teams are looking for," Hamels said. "That's a rarity from starters. You can look at the stats and see how many guys have done it each year. I pride myself on being accountable that I can do that. An organization or my teammates know that I can be accountable to go out for six, seven, eight innings every start and keep it within a reasonable score."
So Hamels is looking for less stressful innings and more efficiency with his pitches in 2017. He was third in the league with 77 walks in 2016, and he said that is unacceptable. "It's about being aggressive and being able to pitch deep into a ballgame with a certain limited number of pitches and maintaining health," Hamels said. "I want to attack early and establish the strike zone throughout the count and not shy away from contact."
Hamels has a goal in mind. "My main goal has always been to pitch 20-plus years in the big leagues," Hamels said. "That's what I am going to strive for every day. I don't try to skip days. My mentality is always to maintain and prove people wrong." (Sullivan - mlb.com - 4/10/17)
June 2002: The Phillies chose him in the first round, out of Rancho Bernardo High School in San Diego. Cole signed on August 23, receiving a $2 million bonus. He was signed by scout Darrell Conner.
January 17, 2009: Cole and the Phillies avoided salary arbitration and agreed to a three-year, $20.5 million contract.
January 17, 2012: Hamels and the Phillies agreed on a $15 million, one-year contract, avoiding arbitration.
July 25, 2012: Hamels and the Phillies agreed on a six-year, $144 million contract, worth an average of $24 million per season that prevents the 2008 World Series MVP from becoming a free agent. The deal includes a club vesting option for 2019 and a limited no-trade provision.
July 30, 2015: The Texas Rangers sent P Matt Harrison and five prospects (catcher Jorge Alfaro, outfielder Nick Williams, and pitchers Jake Thompson, Alec Asher and Jerad Eickhoff) to the Phillies, acquiring Hamels and reliever Jake Diekman. And the Philies kicked in over $9 million of Hamels remaining obligation through 2018.