For Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Aaron Nola, he may be having a disappointing year so far in 2023 that he certainly would like to forget, but he has proven to be a successful, effective player in the past. Apparently, former Phillies’ ace Cole Hamels, who recently retired from professional baseball, had a role in it as Nola reflected on the brief yet impactful time when both Hamels and himself were on the Phillies’ roster in an interview with the Philadelphia Inquirer (subscription required).
Back in July of 2015, Nola was on the cusp of making his MLB debut in just one year after he was drafted seventh overall in the 2014 MLB Draft by the Phillies. He was believed to be a future superstar in the making at the time with his unlimited potential, as he fast-tracked through the minor league system. It was at that very moment, he found himself together with one of the Phillies legend-to-be in the same locker room.
Nola explained how he felt at the time, making his first big step into the big leagues.
"It was nerve-racking. I was a 22-year-old kid and these guys had won a World Series not too long ago. I just wanted to fit in and do my job and not get in the way of any of those guys."
Being the veteran, savvy pitcher that he was, Hamels welcomed the promising rookie with open arms and endured in a conversation that had delivered the inspirational impact that Nola has still felt up until now.
"He took me in with open arms, really paved the way a lot. We talked a lot about pitching, got to know him on a personal level."
This, despite the fact that Hamels was on the verge heading out the door with the trade deadline approaching, as Nola was ultimately being promoted to replace Hamels that very summer of 2015. As a result, Nola knew he would need to take in every opportunity he could to see Hamels deliver his excellence on the mound while he still had the chance.
Boy, did Nola really witness something spectacular, as on that one Saturday afternoon against the Chicago Cubs that year, he had the front row seat in observing history as Hamels dealt a no-hitter in front of his eyes. If Hamels was going to be leaving town soon, he sure did it in the most unthinkable fashion possible.
"Awesome. Feeling those nerves in the eighth and ninth inning. Just awesome."
Eventually, Hamels was indeed traded after his no-no performance in what turned out to be his last start in a Phillies’ uniform, with Nola getting his first MLB win one day before it happened, but the improbable moment has stuck with Nola for a long time.
The two star pitchers would eventually meet again one time in 2017 when the Phillies were visiting the Rangers in an interleague series, as Hamels sought out and caught up with Nola. In doing so, Nola showed huge gratitude with such a kind gesture.
Hopefully Nola can build upon the inspiration he got once again by reliving the past, after taking in Hamels' recent retirement, and use it as motivation for him to turn around his season in helping the Phillies reach the postseason once again this year. Hamels may be officially done in terms of his playing career in Major League Baseball, but his legacy and influence on those in the proceeding generation will definitely live on, at least in case for Nola it will be for sure.