Chuck Hixson

Three Reading Fightins players swept the three major honors in the Eastern League

Reading put up huge numbers in 2016, including leading all of minor league baseball in home runs. You knew there had to be some love coming their way when the end of the season honors were announced, but a sweep?

The Reading Fightin Phils took home three of the Eastern League’s three most prominent awards on Wednesday as outfielder Dylan Cozens was named Eastern League MVP, first baseman Rhys Hoskins was named Eastern League Rookie of the Year, and manager Dusty Wathan was named Eastern League Manager of the Year.

It’s the second straight season that a Fightins player has taken the league’s MVP honors and the first time in Eastern League history that a manager has won the award in back-to-back seasons.

The trio will receive their awards in a special presentation prior to Friday evening’s Game Three at FirstEnergy Stadium.

In 134 games this season, Cozens hit .276 with 38 doubles, three triples, 40 home runs, 125 RBI, 106 runs scored, 21 stolen bases, a .591 slugging percentage and a .350 on-base percentage. The 22-year old led all of Minor League Baseball in home runs and RBI and his 40 home runs and 125 RBI both set new Reading franchise records.

Cozens is the first Eastern League player to reach the 40 home run mark since Ron Kittle for the 1981 Glens Falls White Sox. He is also the first Eastern League player to top 100 RBI and 100 runs scored in a single season since 1961 when George Banks and Charles Keller both did so for the Binghamton Triplets. Cozens combined with his teammate Hoskins, who hit 38 home runs, to break the league record for most total home runs by a pair of teammates. Their total of 78 homers broke the record of 75 set by Rick Lancellotti and Tony Pena for the Buffalo Bisons in 1979.

The Arizona native led all Eastern League hitters in runs scored (106), extra-base hits (81), total bases (308), doubles (38), home runs (40), RBIs (125) and slugging percentage (.591). He also finished ranked among the league leaders in OPS (.941-2nd), hits (144-4th) and walks (61-5th).

Cozens was also selected as an outfielder on the Eastern League All-Star Team and was a member of the Eastern Division roster for the Eastern League All-Star Game in Akron. He was also the Eastern League Player of the Week for the periods of June 27th-July 3rd and August 1st-August 7th and was chosen as the Eastern League Player of the Month in May.

In his Double-A debut season with Reading, Hoskins hit .281 with 26 doubles, one triple, 38 home runs, 116 RBI, 95 runs scored, eight steals, a .377 on-base percentage and a .566 slugging percentage in 135 games while helping to lead the Fightins to a first place finish in the Eastern Division standings. The Sacramento, California native led the Eastern League in OPS (.943) and also finished the season ranked among the league leaders in RBI (116-2nd), home runs (38-2nd), slugging percentage (.566-2nd), total bases (282-2nd), extra-base hits (65-2nd), runs scored (95-2nd), walks (71-2nd), on-base percentage (.377-4th) and hits (140-5th).

Hoskins was especially impressive during the month of June when he was named the Eastern League Player of the Month after hitting .351 (39-for-111) with nine doubles, 13 home runs, 33 RBI and 26 runs scored in 27 games during the month. He was also named the first baseman on the Eastern League All-Star Team, was the Eastern League Player of the Week for the period of June 6th-12th and was a member of the Eastern Division roster for the Eastern League All-Star Game in Akron.

Wathan led the Reading Fightins to a league-best record of 89-52 in his second straight season winning the award. Reading finished 2 1/2 games ahead of the Trenton Thunder in the Eastern Division standings to clinch their second consecutive Eastern Division title. He is joined on his coaching staff in Reading this season by hitting coach Frank Cacciatore, pitching coach Steve Schrenk, athletic trainer Aaron Scott and strength and conditioning coach Kenny Matanane.

The 2016 season is Wathan’s fifth as the manager in Reading, making him the only manager in the 50 year history of the Reading franchise to lead the team in five consecutive seasons. In those five seasons in Reading Wathan has put together a record of 373-335, leading the team to postseason berths in 2012, 2015 and 2016. With a 6-5 win over the Hartford Yard Goats on July 22nd, he earned his 351st win in Reading, making him the all-time winningest manager in franchise history.

Wathan began his managerial career in 2008 with the Williamsport Crosscutters of the New York-Penn League. He went on to lead the Lakewood Blue Claws to the South Atlantic League Championship in 2009 and was the skipper of the Clearwater Threshers of the Florida State League from 2010-11. In his nine seasons as a manager Wathan has compiled a career record of 631-565 (.528).

Prior to his managerial career Dusty had a 14-year playing career, reaching the Major Leagues with the Kansas City Royals in 2002. He played with six different organizations during his career, including appearing in one game for Reading during the 2007 season.

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