Cole Hamels: A Career That Almost Wasn’t.
Colbert Michael Hamels was born in San Diego in December 1983. His goal has always been to make his parents (Gary and Amanda), both educators, proud (he scored 1510/1600 on the SAT). He rooted for the hometown San Diego Padres and recent Hall of Famer pitcher Trevor Hoffman. However, it was another team’s future Hall of Famer that he would model his pitching style after — Atlanta Braves’ Tom Glavine.
The summer before his junior year at Rancho Bernardo High School, Cole Hamels fractured his left arm in a pickup football game. The southpaw, however, didn’t tell his pitching coach, Mark Furtak, who put him in a summer baseball game against a local rival later that afternoon. A game in which his arm literally snapped. “He threw a pitch and it went to the top of the backstop,” Furtak said in an interview with the San Diego Union-Tribune. “You could hear it pop. … It’s a sound I never heard before and I never want to hear again.” Hamels would not pitch again that year.
As a senior, he returned strong and went 10–0 with a 0.39 ERA, with 130 strikeouts in 71 innings. Hamels pitched for a high school team that had won three division championships in a row (1999, 2000, and 2001) but would fall in the 2002 sectionals. The Philadelphia Phillies drafted him with the 17th pick that June. Hamels signed late that year and began his major league career the following season with the Lakewood Blueclaws, a Class-A Full affiliate in New Jersey, before moving up to the Clearwater Phillies, a Class-A Advanced affiliate, in Florida.
By 2004 Hamels was a non-roster, spring training invitee to the major league camp. His innings were limited after he strained his elbow and was sent back to the minors. The next spring a broken bone in his hand sidelined him until June. It was a short season as back problems then kept him off the mound.
After striking out 65 in 43 innings with the RailRiders, the Triple-A affiliate in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, the Phillies brought him up in 2006. Before he came up to the majors, teammate Ryan Howard nicknamed him ‘Hollywood’ because he looked the part — t-shirt, board shorts, and flip flops.
In his major league debut on May 12 against the Cincinnati Reds, Hamels pitched five shutout innings, gave up one hit, walked five, and struck out seven, including one of his favorite players, Ken Griffey Jr. Later he went on the disabled list after spraining his shoulder. By July things turned around for the lefty — thanks to veteran pitcher Jamie Moyer who helped him understand how major league hitters think. His first major league victory came against the Arizona Diamondbacks. In 2007, Hamels was named to the All-Star team. The Phillies made the playoffs, but lost against the Colorado Rockies.
The next season they made the playoffs again, this time beating the Milwaukee Brewers and Los Angeles Dodgers, and went on to win their first pennant in 15 years. The 2008 team beat the Tampa Bay Rays in the World Series, where Hamels was named the Most Valuable Player (he was also the MVP in the playoffs), beating the Florida team managed by Joe Maddon. Hamels consistently dominated with a mix of his changeup, curve, and fastball.
Hamels has received a number of awards over his career. He was honored with the Steve Carlton Most Valuable Pitcher award (the Phillies’ top award for MLB pitchers) in 2007, 2008, and 2012. He received the Babe Ruth award in 2008 (given annually to the major leaguer with the best performance in the postseason). Hamels was a Roberto Clemente award nominee in 2009 and 2016 (the award is given annually to the major leaguer who ‘best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement, and the individual’s contribution to his team as voted on by baseball fans and members of the media’). He was the Cy Young award fourth place finisher in 2011. A four-time All-Star (2007, 2011, 2012, and 2016), Hamels threw a no-hitter against the Cubs at Wrigley Field in 2015. The thirty-four-year-old wants to pitch until he is 40.
Hamels married Heidi Strobel on New Years’ Eve 2006 in her hometown of Springfield, Missouri. The couple met in 2004 when Strobel threw out the first pitch at his Clearwater Threshers’ game. Hamels got her autograph after the pitch and a date. They have four children — Caleb (born in 2009), Braxton (born in 2011), Reeve (adopted in 2012 from Ethiopia, the couple had dreamed of adopting internationally for years), and Mackenzie (born in 2016).
The Midwest native Strobel was on the sixth season of Survivor (Amazon) and placed fifth in 2002. A graduate of Drury University in Missouri, she was a physical education teacher before going on the reality show. Currently Strobel is a country music songwriter, working with singers Lee Gantt and Sara Spicer.
The year before Caleb was born, the couple started the Hamels Foundation charity, which is dedicated to ‘enriching the lives of children through the power of education by giving them the tools they need to achieve their goals,’ domestically and internationally in Africa, through a community-based approach to education. Proceeds from a new, limited edition, Hari Mari x Nokona All-American flip flop are donated to the charity.
Hamels coaches a yearly all-star hitting and pitching clinic for athletes, ages 12–17. He also gives back to American troops for their service through Operation 35, providing U.S. military veterans and their guests tickets to home games.
Last year the couple donated their Missouri mansion to Camp Barnabas, a charity that provides “life-changing experiences to individuals with special needs and chronic illnesses as well as their siblings.” Their former 32,000-square-foot home sits on 100+ acres at Table Rock Lake (an artificial lake in the Ozarks) and is valued at $9.4 million. In the past 24 years, the charity has seen more than 75,000 special-needs campers and missionaries through their mission to change lives through disability ministry.
The Hamels are currently building their dream home in Dallas, Texas. “Trades are part of the game fans don’t really see,’’ Hamels said to his hometown Pomerado News.
“Every time a guy gets traded, the entire family gets traded. All fans see is the player on the field, but there are people involved. Fans don’t realize we’re just as normal as can be.’’
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