You read the headline right. Former Phillies left-hander Cole Hamels was back in the City of Brotherly Love earlier today. You might ask what Hamels is doing back in the city because, as we all know, he pitches for the Texas Rangers. But although Hamels no longer pitches for the Phils, his presence is still felt across the city. Cole and his wife, Heidi, made it clear today that Philadelphia will always have a special place in their hearts.
For those of you who don’t know, Hamels was very active in the community during his time in Philadelphia. He and Heidi are the co-founders of The Hamels Foundation, which provides support for quality education for students all over the world. Today, Cole and Heidi made an appearance at WB Saul High School for Agricultural Sciences, in the Roxborough section of Philadelphia, to present a $95,000 check, with which funds will be used to renovate greenhouse facilities at the school, providing students with unique opportunities.
I made the trip to WB Saul High School and was able to speak with both Cole and Heidi.
Corey: Obviously Cole now pitches for the Texas Rangers. Why is it so important for you to continue doing work in Philadelphia?
Heidi: We still live here and our kids still go to school here so it’s really important that the community realizes we’re still here and still very active in education. Even if we didn’t live here, though, we’re not going anywhere. The Hamels Foundation is here to stay. We will continually give grants here, year in and year out, to education for public schools here. I think it’s very important that when a community welcomes you, to make sure you honor and respect that. That doesn’t happen all the time, so I think it’s really important the community realizes how grateful we are, how thankful we are and have been, and that we are here to stay.
Corey: What do you miss most about living in Philadelphia?
Heidi: Well, I still live here with the kids … but how about you (to Cole)?
Cole: When somebody makes an impact on your life, you want to still be able to acknowledge that and I think that this is kind of the best way how. We still have some avenues to still give our time and our effort and a lot of energy. We’ve got great people that we met that have really helped us along our way and are still with us. That’s something we cherish, and friendships are not easily found and they’re a lot harder to keep. This city has been tremendous to us with the support that they gave us at the events we were able to put on, and a lot of these schools are in great need and we still want to be able to provide that as best as we possibly can. We’re furthering our idea and still maintaining it. We all try to do it the best way we know how and it’s to reach out, and hopefully we’ll make a difference.
Corey: You were 18 years old when the Phillies drafted you back in 2002. What was your perception of the city then compared to your experience? Is it what you thought it’d be?
Cole: It’s blue collar, very tough. It was going to be a shock from the Southern California where I grew up. It’s great, they have great people, a great fan base for sports and a great work ethic, and really seeing it, there’s a lot of love behind this community. It’s a big city but has that small-town vibe where there’s people that are very involved and everybody can get to know each other and help each other out because they know somebody … You always wish the best for the new generation of athletes that come here because they’re really going to enjoy it.
Corey: What do you think of the rebuild so far? Especially the pitching rotation, something you know a little bit about.
Cole: It’s good. That needed to happen, and I understand that I could have been in the way, but I was glad I was able to do something that helped out. But like anything, though, you just have to give people opportunities and they have to prove themselves, and I think that’s where they’re at. They’ve given a lot of people some opportunities and these guys are going to have to prove themselves, and then the team is going to have to make the choices. They’re giving themselves better opportunities with drafting high draft picks, which now you see all these teams that win, most of the time they’re winning because they have higher draft picks, so that does help. You’re getting the best of the best around the world and those guys are going to help push guys to make them better.
Corey: What does Philadelphia mean to you both?
Heidi: I’m from Southern Missouri, so I’m a very southern girl. So, coming here, it’s been life changing for me. The culture here and the food is amazing. It was a culture shock at first but now that we’ve been living it for over a decade, and I can’t believe I’m saying that, but it’s home. I love that we can go an hour and be in the Hershey Park and Amish area, and then go another hour and be in the cultural mecca of where the Constitution and where history was really made for America. It’s such a neat thing to be apart of culturally, and I love it. I think it’s an amazing place.
Cole: It’s the history. Just being here and understanding the impact of what history is and everyday you get to make history, so it’s just a phenomenal opportunity for myself, my wife and our family. We’ve met great people along the way, which we are always going to keep and cherish for as long as we live, so they’ve made that much of an impact.
Corey: What’s next for the Hamels Foundation?
Heidi: We have several projects going on simultaneously. We have this at WB Saul, which is the agricultural grant. We also have a school in Malawi, Africa. It’s the model school for Malawi and for other countries around Africa. It impacts about 2,600 children right now. That’s a big one. That’s a full working machine. We also have scholarships that we give out to California and Missouri. We are also donating $1.1 million just for Philadelphia alone and $3.8 million worldwide. We’re in California, Texas, Missouri, Philadelphia, Africa – that’s where we’re at right now. It’s a lot and there’s a lot of moving parts. You (Cole) have a pitching clinic coming up in January in Texas, and we have two more events in Philadelphia. It’s a constant, constant machine you’re trying to run.
Cole and Heidi are determined to keep their tradition of giving back to Philadelphia in every way possible. The kids of Saul High School will benefit from the Hamelses efforts.
Visit our Facebook page to watch Heidi Hamels address the students and staff at WB Saul High School.