IF THE PHILLIES are going to make a run at the postseason—they were five games back in the NL East through Sunday—they'll likely be led by All-Star lefty Cole Hamels, he of the slugger-freezing changeup. The 17th overall pick of the 2002 draft, he came within nine outs of a perfect game against Milwaukee this year. So, perfect he's not. But charmed? He was 11--4 with an NL-best 126 strikeouts, he's married to a Playboy cover girl, and, oh, yes, he's 23.
On his fan club, the Cole Miners
They dress up. They have the hats with the lights, and every time I get out of an inning or strike a guy out they start digging like they're miners with a [pick]ax. It's funny. Philly fans love that stuff. For Flash [reliever Tom Gordon], it's superheroes. They dress up like Superman, Spider-man, the Flash, Ninja Turtles. They go nuts.
On how he learned his devastating changeup
Growing up near San Diego, everybody threw 94 miles an hour. I needed to develop something to make my fastball effective. My high school pitching coach [Mark Furtak] taught me the circle change, and I messed with it over the years. The arm action I use comes naturally.
On a surgical enhancement
I broke my pitching arm [humerus] in a game when I was 16. I heard a snap, like a broken tree branch, and the ball went straight up. When I came back, my changeup was better. The doctors said, as a joke, that when they put my arm back together, they turned it a little bit. I laughed, but my changeup was dropping more.
On ColeHamelsFacts.com, a collection of humorous, made-up "facts" about him submitted by fans and modeled on the famous chucknorrisfacts.com
I first heard of it last year. Fans were mailing me facts. I didn't know what they were, but they were funny. I posted them in my locker, and everybody started reading them. [Phillies starter] Adam Eaton came up with "When Cole Hamels kneels to say his bedtime prayers, he overhears God thanking himself for creating Cole Hamels." [Reliever] Clay Condrey has one: "The HOV lane was created for Hamels and his changeup."
On meeting his wife, Playboy model and Survivor contestant Heidi Strobel
She had an appearance when I was in A ball in Clearwater [in 2004]; it was Survivor day at the ballpark. I [went] to get her autograph, and I asked her out. She said yes, if I'd come to Missouri—Springfield, where she's from. I flew out two weeks later. We went to a concert and a movie: Cellular. I still have the movie-ticket stub. We got married last New Year's Eve.
On what he was like at Rancho Bernardo High
A dork. Really shy. I'd hang out in the athletic group and was a bit standoffish. I didn't date anyone because I was focusing on baseball and that's what I did every day. Then I'd go home and play computer games.
On his parents
One reason I was shy in school is that my dad, Gary, is a school district assistant superintendent, and my mom, Amanda, is a teacher. Every teacher knew them. If I ever did anything wrong, they could just hit speed dial. I never did, though. The last thing I wanted to do was disappoint my parents.
PHOTOGRAPH BY MICHAEL J. LEBRECHT II/1DEUCE3 PHOTOGRAPHY
CHUCK SOLOMON (HAMELS ACTION)