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‘I’m a little different than most’: Meet the Phillies’ eccentric new pitching prospect


Hans Crouse was sent to the Phillies organization at the trade deadline. (Photo courtesy of the Reading Fightin Phils)

Editor’s note: This story was originally published Aug. 15, 2021.

A day before his first home start as a member of the Reading Fightin Phils, right-handed pitcher Hans Crouse shuffled into the batting cage for his next turn in a round of batting practice.

After stepping into the left-handed batter’s box on Friday afternoon, Crouse got ready to swing. As the pitch came in, he tipped his bat forward, kicked his leg and took a hack, connecting for a high fly ball.

His Fightins teammates who stood behind the cage anxiously awaited the baseball’s landing. Crouse had hit one to the warning track earlier, but this one didn’t disappoint. The ball sailed beyond the right-center-field wall at Reading’s FirstEnergy Stadium.

Crouse gave a huge fist pump and ran toward his cheering teammates. He leapt in the air and side-bumped with another player in celebration. It may have just been a home run in BP, but Crouse was amped up.

“I just compete,” he told Phillies Nation earlier that afternoon. “And if people take that as being too over the top, then so be it.”

Crouse, of course, was referring to his demeanor as a pitcher at the time. His competitive nature bleeds into other matters such as batting practice, but it’s most notable when he takes the mound. The starter — acquired by the Philadelphia Phillies at the trade deadline along with major-league pitchers Ian Kennedy and Kyle Gibson in a deal that sent Spencer Howard and two minor-league pitchers to the Texas Rangers — brings intensity and attitude to his new organization along with him.

The right-hander has been known to stomp, yell and punch his fist into his glove on the field. If he’s not afraid to get too excited or emotional over a practice homer, then he’s certainly willing to do so when he’s facing an opposing lineup.

“I’m never going to change the way I compete on the mound and fire myself up out there,” Crouse said. “I do what works best for me and as long as I’m not hurting anyone in the process of doing that, then I’m going to continue to do what works best for me.”

Crouse tends to do what works best for him in just about every way — on and off the field.

The 22-year-old has his own sense of style. He currently sports bleach-blond hair, a dark mustache and 22 tattoos, including several on his neck. However, the look can change at any time.

“I love it,” he said with a smile. “I love having a different look all the time. I’ll probably have 10 other different looks throughout my pro career.”

Crouse drew the designs for two of his favorite tattoos himself. His first tattoo — a masked woman on his left shoulder — he designed and had done in high school. He also drew the design for the Marilyn Monroe tattoo on his left forearm.

Crouse drew the design for his Marilyn Monroe tattoo, one of 22 on his body. (Ty Daubert/Phillies Nation)

“I just think it’s fun, and this game is meant to have fun,” he said of his appearance. “At the end of the day, it is our job, but we get to play a game for a living, so might as well make the most of our opportunities with it and have the most fun possible doing it.”

That outlook has endeared Crouse to many throughout his career.

“He’s a real genuine, good guy,” Fightins manager Shawn Williams said of his pitcher. “He’s been outstanding.”

The acceptance from Williams, along with the rest of the staff and players in Reading, has been crucial for Crouse, who was “a little shocked” when he was traded on July 30.

“When people have always told me life comes at you fast, I’ve never really believed it,” Crouse said. “But I’m definitely starting to believe it now.”

The Rangers organization was all he had known since being selected by the team out of high school in the second round of the 2017 draft. At home in California, he has a fiancee and a three-month-old son, Memphis. Joining the Phillies’ Double-A affiliate put Crouse much farther away from them in an entirely new environment, but the team’s openness has helped him adjust.

“They’ve welcomed me with open arms,” he said. “Haven’t changed a thing about the way I go about my business or personality, and all the guys have been great so far.”

“He’s really fit in well,” Williams said. “I know he loves it here. He’s an outstanding kid and, like I said, extremely genuine. I know all his teammates, they love him. He’s fit in very well.”

While Crouse has jelled with his new team by being the same person he’s always been, he’s been a standout on the field by changing himself as a pitcher.

“I’m not a thrower anymore,” the fourth-year minor leaguer said.

Crouse came out of high school as a two-pitch pitcher with a power fastball and slider combination. He relied on blowing his stuff past hitters in his first two seasons in professional baseball. Then the 2019 season shook up his arsenal.

He threw that entire year for the Single-A Hickory Crawdads with five bone chips in the back of his right elbow before undergoing surgery at the end of the season. The injury prevented him from throwing sliders during the season, so he pivoted to pairing his fastball with a changeup.

Entering 2021 after the canceled 2020 minor-league season, Crouse was healthy again and able to return to using his slider. He had developed much better feel for the changeup in 2019, which added a second offspeed pitch to his repertoire. His four-seam fastball velocity may have dipped slightly, sitting in the mid-90s mph instead of approaching triple digits, but he complemented the pitch by starting to mix in a few two-seamers and cutters.

Crouse has utilized that mix successfully all season. He had a 3.35 ERA in 13 starts for the Double-A Frisco RoughRiders while striking out 9.5 batters per nine innings prior to the trade and has continued rolling since.

In his first start for Reading on Aug. 6, he threw five shutout innings, striking out five and giving up just two hits and three walks in a 3-2 win over the Richmond Flying Squirrels at The Diamond. On Saturday, he allowed one run over 4 1/3 innings in a 1-0 loss to the Akron RubberDucks in his home debut. He surrendered only three hits — one being a solo home run — and two walks, while striking out six.

“I’d just say I’m way more of a complete pitcher now,” Crouse said. “I still have my good fastball and good slider when I need it, but I’m pitching to guys a lot more this year and not just saying, ‘Here it is. Hit it.’

“I’m still challenging guys, but I’m working smarter and more efficiently for sure this year.”

Crouse hopes his newfound completeness can give him a shot at a promotion. Perhaps a big-league call-up this season is a bit of a long shot, but the Phillies could need arms as they push toward a postseason spot down the stretch.

“I’d love to be a part of the mix in September with the Phillies if they need some help,” he said. “That’s definitely a goal of mine.

“If not, I would love to be up there some time next year with them — bullpen, starting, I don’t care. I just want to help the team win.”

As for other goals, Crouse balances staying grounded with shooting for the stars. Off the field, he strives to be a great friend, father and eventual husband. Off it, he aims to win a World Series championship — “hopefully in Philly” — and, some day, win a Cy Young Award.

The baseball dreams are lofty, but Crouse isn’t exactly worried about those right now. He’s more focused on taking care of business in Double-A, “trying to take it one day at a time, one start at a time.”

It’s not yet clear what heights Crouse will reach in his playing career, and it likely won’t be for years to come. One thing will be certain, though, wherever he does end up: He’ll get there doing things his own way.

“I’m a little different than most,” Crouse said. “I don’t know. I just feel like life can get so boring at times. Why not mix it up?”

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3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. John P. James

    September 12, 2021 at 10:35 pm

    I am 76-years-old and retired as a sports writer after 33 years. I enjoy this site immensely. Unlike, too many sites that seem to promote radio-jock sensationalism, you offer fair and honest reporting. I enjoy reading this site during another disappointing season thus far. I’m not even considering a divsion title and a wild card is something that Cinderella might wish for. But, your piece on the Phils’ prospects down on the farms, gave me a shot of Adrenalin for next season. Keep up the great work.

  2. Martin Bryant

    September 26, 2021 at 10:23 pm

    I tire of these headlines and posts that call the team heartbreaking or a disappointment even though they have won nine of the last twelve games and have a winning record. They may or may not make the playoffs. Individual fans may feel that they do not win proportional to the talent they have or that their talent is disappointing. But these are hardly a bunch of losers. They have a bona fide MVP candidate, a bona fide Cy Young candidate, the best catcher in the National League and a great young pitching talent in Saurez. Yes Nola and Eflin are having disappointing years compared to their histories and Gibson has been better in his career and is just a good 4th or 5th starter. They have problems with infield defense and relief pitching and some injuries (in particular Hoskins) that have hurt them – but all teams have at least some of these problems and many don’t have a Harper or three good starters.

    Stop being whiners. They are fun to watch. There is still hope. They will lose games – every team does.

    Stats for the Atlanta Series:
    The Phillies 9-7 vs. Atlanta this year and 24-21 vs. the Braves over the last three seasons.
    Like most teams, the Phillies are 47-34 at home and 34-41 on the road,
    but Atlanta is different – they are 37-37 at home and 46-35 away. (no home field advantage)
    team batting vs. announced starters (all stats 2021 except *where indicated)
    Phillies vs. Charlie Morton .261/.354/.362/.717 Atlanta vs. Zach Wheeler .200/.348/.274/.521
    Phillies vs. Max Fried .300/.396/.475/.871 Atlanta vs. Aaron Nola .232/.255/.505/.760
    The Phillies lead in every one of these categories over the Braves against the starting pitching.
    Phillies vs. Ian Anderson .224/.283/.388/.671 Atlanta vs. Kyle Gibson .242/.306/.485/.790*
    *Kyle Gibson has only pitched against Atlanta once on Aug 17, 2017 for the Minnesota Twins
    he won that game (10-3) with a CG(9 innings) and gave up 3 earned runs and 8 hits & 2 HRs
    Phillies vs. Will Smith .118/.238/.353/.591 Atlanta vs. Ian Kennedy .271/.354/.403/.758
    The Phillies have struggles vs. the Atlanta ace in six games this year.

    • Martin Bryant

      September 26, 2021 at 10:29 pm

      Sorry I meant to post this in the discussion of Sunday afternoon’s game – so this is a duplicate post..

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