Hamels has his number retired at Lakewood

Posted: June 11, 2014

LAKEWOOD, N.J. - When Cole Hamels was drafted with the 17th pick in the 2002 draft by the Phillies, his only knowledge of life in the minor leagues came from Kevin Costner and the 1988 classic film "Bull Durham." At age 18, he was a young pitcher, but the Phillies did not send anyone down to mentor him. They did not have to. He credits Lakewood, where his No. 19 was retired last night, in his all-important developmental process.

"It introduced me to what minor league baseball is all about; the process of road trips and the process of being a team with a lot of different guys from all different areas and starting to schedule what you have to do in order to get to the next level," Hamels said.

He said it was not only the competition and learning how to perfect his craft over the course of a long baseball season, but also, "how to deal with the tremendous fan base they have and how to interact and be a part of your community, too."

As much as Hamels might have liked his time with the BlueClaws, the lefthander made sure he was not there very long. He made only 13 starts in 2003 before being called up to high Class A Clearwater, going 6-1 with a 0.84 ERA. He is only the second player in club history, along with Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard, to have his number displayed beyond the centerfield wall.

"It's a special moment," Hamels said. "This is where my career started. It has been a great ride. These are the memories I will remember more than some of the memories in the major leagues, because this is the start to my journey in playing baseball."

His journey has taken him on highs and lows with the Phillies. One of the lows is this season, with the team in last place in the NL East. Despite being a season-low 11 games below .500, the ninth-year Phillie thinks they have what it takes to turn it around.

"Ever since I've been here, we have always won," Hamels said. "Last year was kind of the first struggles that we had to go through. We have a lot of great guys, great talent. It is just a matter of everybody putting it all together at the same time. That has been the test. Guys have been playing well, but not as a team and not at the same time."

Even though a steady rain poured down, Hamels accepted his gifts from the BlueClaws with a smile. One of the gifts was a customized five-pound Hershey chocolate bar. He, and Phillies fans, would agree, that turning the season around sometime soon would be "sweet."

On Twitter: @AndrewJAlbert01

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