Commentary

Flashback: Cole Hamels

Updated: April 16, 2009, 12:27 PM ET
By J.F. Pirro | ESPN RISE Magazine

[+] EnlargeCole Hamels
Doug Pensinger/Getty ImagesCole Hamels overcame an injury in high school to become World Series MVP.

What more could a guy want? Entering his fourth major league season, Philadelphia Phillies lefty Cole Hamels is already an All-Star pitcher and World Series MVP. He's sure come a long way since graduating in 2002 from Rancho Bernardo (San Diego, Calif.), a school known as "The Factory" due to its tradition of churning out MLB Draft picks. After snapping the bone between his throwing elbow and shoulder the summer after his sophomore year and undergoing surgery that could have ended his career as a pitcher, Hamels didn't look like he'd become The Factory's latest product. But he spent his entire junior season rehabbing, and Hamels surprised even himself by going 10-0 with a 0.39 ERA and 130 strikeouts in 71 innings as a senior. He then became the 17th pick of the 2002 MLB Draft and has used the lessons from high school to excel as a pro ever since.

ESPN RISE: In high school, did you think you had a shot of making the majors?

Hamels: I thought I'd play in college, get an education and that would be good. With everything that's occurred, it's beyond my wildest dreams. At Rancho Bernardo, most guys are built like brick houses, but I was the skinny guy doing what they were doing. They all thought I was a freak, but I kept performing in ways no one could have possibly imagined. I was given something to work with, but it's taken a lot of hard work.

ESPN RISE: How did going to a school like Rancho Bernardo help your career?

Hamels: There are 3,500 kids in the school, so over 150 try out for the freshman team. It made it nervewracking, but it also made you compete at a higher level. You knew you had to in order to get a spot. I had to quit soccer just to make the baseball team. Then once you made the team, you knew you'd get the best coaching possible and they'd teach you the right way to play.

Cole Hamels Favorites

  • TV Show: "Friends"
  • Movie: "The Lord of the Rings"
  • Musical Artist: 3 Doors Down
  • Athletic Gear: Nike
  • Glove: Mizuno
  • Video Game: GoldenEye 007
  • Rancho Bernardo (San Diego, Calif.), Class of 2002

ESPN RISE: How difficult was coming back from surgery?

Hamels: It's one of the hardest things I've ever had to do. But because it was so hard, it's helped me through every injury I've had since. I thought I had the paths aligned and was about to have things given to me, and then I had to have a new perspective.

ESPN RISE: How did the surgery change you?

Hamels: I learned you can never be too cocky, that life's not perfect and you'll have a lot of obstacles. It's what has allowed me to work hard, especially at something I didn't think I had to work hard at.

ESPN RISE: What impact did missing your junior year have?

Hamels: Even friends and coaches said, "If you miss a year, it's easy to forget about you." But man, I didn't want to be forgotten. I wanted to be there, and that helped me push. But obviously my (senior year) performance blew people away and then they couldn't forget me. I shocked even myself.

ESPN RISE: What did you learn in high school that still helps you in the majors?

Hamels: Things can come to an abrupt halt just when you think you have control. In San Diego there's some pretty tough competition, but you can never think another school isn't as good because they can surprise you. You can never let up. If you want to relax, relax after the game.

J.F. Pirro covers high school sports for ESPN RISE Magazine.