“Focus” was a word that was bandied about quite a bit during Cole Hamels’ baseball clinic for children last weekend in Boothwyn. Charismatic, motivational speaker Jim Brogan, Cincinnati Reds farmhand Mike Costanza and Hamels kept dropping the F-word, focus, when speaking about mental toughness to little leaguers ranging from age 8 to16 at Maple Zone Sports and Fitness.
So, what is Hamels, who will turn 30 in December, focusing on after the Phillies disappointing 73-loss season in 2013?
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“I’ve been watching a lot of football,” Hamels said. “That’s what I’ve been watching. It’s that time of year.”
The San Diego native, who resides year-round in Philadelphia, is rooting hard for his Chargers.
“I would love to see them catch up to the Denver Broncos but I don’t think that’s going to happen,” said the lefty.
Hamels is taking a bit of a mental break from the Phillies while recovering from a lost season.
“I’m trying to recharge my batteries,” Hamels said. “I’ve been thinking about other things.”
When pressed about 2014, Hamels quickly detailed what needs to go right.
“What I hope happens is that we’re finally healthy next season,” Hamels said. “We had so many injuries and so many things go wrong last season. We need to stay healthy and perform up to our potential. I think we’ll be tough.”
Hamels refused to comment on general manager Ruben Amaro’s recent signing of Marlon Byrd. But he did note that he’s optimistic about next season.
“We have a lot of talent on this team,” Hamels said. “I believe we can bounce back. I’ll be ready when it comes to time to go to Florida.”
In the meantime, the lanky hurler is focusing on the Cole Hamels Foundation and project Malawi. Malawi, an oft-overlooked nation, is an AIDS-ravaged African country. It’s been estimated that over one million children have been orphaned by AIDS in Malawi.
“We’re trying to make a difference in Malawi,” Hamels said. “They need our help.”
Hamels, along with his wife Heidi, will open a school in September of 2014 in the deprived land.
“It’s something that we can’t wait for,” Heidi Hamels said.
Could a baseball academy follow the conventional school the Hamels foundation is constructing in Malawi?
“We brought wiffle balls and bats down to Malawi and before explaining the rules the kids came up with some pretty inventive games with balls and bats down there,” Heidi Hamels said. “We’re still introducing the game to them.”
But can Hamels foresee tapping into a new world of talent and capitalizing on it as an agent or as a scout in his post-major league career?
“That’s an interesting idea,” Hamels said while laughing. “But I hope that I have plenty of years left pitching for the Phillies. I’m not ready to think about what I’ll do when I’m done pitching. I’m not even ready to even think much about next season. I’m just trying to enjoy myself before everything starts up again next season.”
The next game Hamels win will be the 100th of career. Hamels likely would have accomplished the feat last season but received the worst run support in the National League.
“If there’s one guy in baseball I wouldn’t worry about it’s Cole Hamels,” Washington Nationals pitcher Gio Gonzalez said. “He’s among the best, whether the Phillies are scoring for him or not.”