Cole Hamels is pissed. He’s sitting on a couch on the rooftop of the Hotel Monaco in Old City, Heidi curled up next to him in a gray hoodie and light denim jeans, her legs folded beneath her, feet bare. She’s fresh-faced and bespectacled, and today looks nothing like one of Philadelphia’s most fashionable women. Cole is casual, too, in jeans, a gray waffle shirt and a navy puffer vest. I open with what I think is an icebreaker, a total softball: “How was Caleb’s birthday party?” When we picked him up at school, towheaded Caleb had been adorable and sweet, chatting about his Avengers book bag.
“No comment,” Cole replies, stone-faced, his stare withering. “No, seriously, I’m not talking about the kids.”
“Cole, babe,” Heidi says. “You’re on edge right now. Sorry, it’s stressful, the last week.”
To be fair, Cole is barely removed from the most disappointing season of his Phillies career. Though he pitched far better than his 8-14 record showed, the team’s playoff hopes died in midsummer, and attendance took a nosedive. Cole is also still stinging from a bad experience with another magazine that used his image on its cover without his consent. The only reason he does interviews away from baseball, and Heidi does any at all, is to promote the Hamels Foundation’s work.
Back in 2004, Cole Hamels wasn’t the Cole Hamels—not quite yet. He was a young lefty with the Phillies farm team, the Clearwater Threshers, sidelined by elbow tendonitis and curious about the blonde that people were lining up to see during the game. Dressed in street clothes, Cole did a very un-Cole thing—he stood in the queue to ask her out. Heidi then did a very un-Heidi thing—she said yes. This brings us to the other anecdote Heidi told me at XIX: On the night of their first date, at a sports bar in the middle of nowhere, without knowing Cole’s age (20 at the time; Heidi was 25) or even his last name, she told him, “If you want to be the best, you need to act like the best.” It’s a heady thing to say to anyone, but Heidi prides herself on making quick and accurate character studies of people she meets. “I told him, ‘Man, I can see how much potential you have as a human being. I see you being the backseat driver of your life. Don’t do that. You’re amazing.’” For their second date a week later, Cole flew coach to Missouri. (“I had to stretch some facts so I could get an extra day off,” he admits with a smile. “I was really happy.”)
Two years later, Heidi and Cole were clinking champagne flutes at their New Year’s Eve wedding, and two years after that, Cole was named the MVP of the World Series. Does that happen if Heidi doesn’t deliver her pep talk on their first date? Possibly. But who knows what kind of butterfly effect would have kicked in if Cole had met a different woman, one who didn’t encourage him to seize greatness and, when greatness came, how to handle all that came with it? Cole credits Heidi for helping him navigate the choppy waters of fame. “The worst part about it,” Cole says of celebrity, “is I don’t want it. But I knew what I signed up for, and Heidi understood. For eight months out of the year, you’re gonna take a backseat. The next four months, I take the backseat. Heidi is so confident in herself that I knew she would be able to survive this lifestyle. We see it every day—a lot of people can’t.”