‘Home Run King’ Dylan Phillips talks legacy, playing as a team

Dylan Phillips prepares for an at-bat against Oklahoma State on April 3, 2022. (Archive photo by Kendall Spencer | Collegian Media Group)

On a day where nobody could touch Oklahoma State pitcher Victor Mederos, all-American outfielder Dylan Phillips got a hold of one. Mederos’ changeup missed high, but Phillips didn’t.

The junior Wildcat known as “Whammer” hammered a ball 402-feet to right-center field, crowning Phillips as the new all-time home run king in Kansas State baseball history.

The blast signified new blood in the baseball record books but also drafted a new nickname to his resume: King Phillips.

“That’s the thing going around the locker room right now,” Phillips said. “It’s all in great fun, and it’s just good to have good team camaraderie. It’s definitely pretty cool.”

The power-slugger’s adrenaline rushed too fast to soak in his moment when he tipped his cap to a sold-out crowd at Tointon Family Stadium this past Saturday. Sunday’s pre-game honors had the same feeling.

All Phillips could put into words was, “It was a really cool moment,” and showed his appreciation for the fans’ support at Saturday’s game and over the past four years.

(Archive photo by Kendall Spencer | Collegian Media Group)
Dylan Phillips hugs his mother after being presented with his record-breaking home run ball on April 3, 2022. (Archive photo by Kendall Spencer | Collegian Media Group)

Although, it was more than just a really cool moment. Phillips admitted that his career’s work as a Wildcat was in the back of his mind since his freshman campaign.

“After my freshman year, I had ten [home runs],” Phillips said. “I was like, ‘’Alright, this could be something to maybe go after.’ Then, COVID hit … you never knew what was going to happen and all that stuff, so then to finally get to it, it is pretty cool to see my name at the top of that.”

Despite the personal accolades, the unselfish Big 12 Player of the Week simply wants to contribute to his team’s success, even if the runs are coming in style.

“I never focus really on my individual stats and what-not, but I see it as a good goal to put down on paper just to strive for something, and if that’s going to help us win games, then obviously I want to do it,” Phillips said. “Scoring runs is never a bad thing for a team, so I think it’s an acceptable goal to have.”

When Major League Baseball scouts drive to see power hitters, they’re primarily interested in their hitting on the five-tool scale. As Billy Beane was allegedly told by a scout in the movie “Moneyball,” most young professional players have one-to-two tools and are hoping to develop an extra one.

Phillips has the defensive toolbox to play multiple positions, spending time playing outfield, first base and closing on the mound. His all-time earned runs average as a pitcher is above eight, but he earned his first save this season and has a .971 career fielding percentage.

The Big 12’s active home run leader has not only hit 40 bombs but has also accomplished a .301 career batting average thus far. Multiple perspectives can explain the all-around improvement.

“The trust the coaches have had in me since my freshman year because I honestly was not a very good hitter my freshman year (.238 BA) and [head coach Pete Hughes] just kept putting me back out there,” Phillips said. “I think that trust allowed me to relax and kind of let the game come to me.”

Another contributing factor to Phillips’ development came from summer leagues like Cape Cod, a league that paved the way for athletes like Aaron Judge and Chris Sale to become successful pro players.

“There were a bunch of good players out there, and every day there was another good arm, you know … Friday-Saturday guy here in the Big 12,” Phillips said. “Seeing that consistently kind of let me refine my game there.”

Along with that was the culture of a pro baseball league. He flew to the East Coast on two days’ notice to live with a host family, but Phillips wasn’t there on vacation or to socialize.

“The whole day was kind of wake up, go get some Dunkin’ [Donuts], which luckily was right outside my house,” Phillips said. “Then it was go lift, go to the field and that was kind of every day. You just got to experience what it’s like when baseball is your only focus, and playing at the parks was all pretty cool — fans out there loved it, they just love baseball.”

The lifestyle of cross-country traveling is common in the Major Leagues and something Phillips could experience as a pro player. Phillips’ goal remains to play among the professionals.

“That’s the goal for me personally, but you never know what’s going to happen within all thirty teams and you can’t really put too much thought into it right now,” Phillips said. “Right now, it’s kind of just play and do whatever I can do: the best I can.”

Reflecting on King Phillips’ legacy, he said he wants to be remembered as someone that showed up every day and did everything the right way, but the journey isn’t over. As the Wildcats sit with a 15-13 record and a 1-5 showing against two top-25 conference teams, there’s still work to be done as they face off against No. 4 Texas Tech.

“Hopefully we’re playing late into June and just getting a lot of wins, and with that, hopefully I can continue to play well and help our team in all aspects: defensively, offensively, pitching,” Phillips said. “If we’re playing late into June, then hopefully after that … I’ll get a little time before the draft and hopefully everything works itself out.”

K-State plays the Red Raiders in Lubbock, Texas, at 6:30 p.m. Friday, April 8, in the best of a three-game series. Viewing is available on ESPN+.