Hand-in-hand with his wife on the other side of the world, nothing about the place MLB pitcher Cole Hamels was standing felt comfortable, but the moment he saw the wide-eyed little girl, he knew he was where he was supposed to be.
"It was just kind of crazy," Hamels remembers. "I was like, 'I can’t believe that’s my daughter.'"
A dream planned out almost a decade before was now being realized in a courthouse in the middle of Ethiopia.
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"I think she was hesitant to tell me at first," Cole says of his wife, Heidi, who competed on "Survivor: The Amazon" and revealed when the couple was dating her hopes to someday adopt internationally. "I was completely into it. It was something that I never thought about, because my focus was in a million other directions. But when I sat down and thought about it, I thought it was an absolutely amazing experience and opportunity for us to do."
The soon-to-be-named Reeve Hamels had been left in a field as a six-month old by parents who did not have the means to provide for her. A local orphanage had taken her in. Now, she was being adopted by an American family with a father known for dominating America’s pastime.
"At first, you’re thinking of all what-ifs, the alarms, what people are going to think," the Texas Rangers left-hander said. "And then, when you really sit down and think about it, you think this is my life. This is our life together. We’re going to live it the way that we choose."
It was a process that had originally crawled along (the Hamels had waited six years for the call), but had now shifted to shockingly fast-moving.
"It’s all of a sudden, 'Hey, you need to be (in Ethiopia) in three days,'" Cole remembered. "You have a court date, and you see your daughter for the first time the day before, and you only have two hours with her. And it’s a beautiful country, and the people are incredible.
"But it’s a whirlwind."
After completing the enormous stacks of paperwork required ("it's encyclopedia-like, man.") and overcoming the initial challenges of visiting a country they had never been to before, the Hamels quickly saw why everyone at the orphanage raved about little Reeve.
"That smile that she has," Cole says, shaking his head. "She’s blown us away every day. She’s been an absolutely amazing daughter. She’s an amazing sister to our two boys. They can’t imagine her not being their sister and she can’t imagine not having two older brothers."
Cole doesn’t hide that Heidi’s passion for helping international orphans inspires him. In fact, it is what fuels his Hamels Foundation, which just opened a school in Malawi, Africa, which will help educate an estimated 2,000 orphans.
That same passion also gave him his little girl, who now three years later, admittedly provides similar toddler challenges to her older brothers — "The terrible threes are a real thing" — but has changed the Hamels’ family in an incredible way forever.
"We can’t imagine our life without her," the former Philadelphia Phillies pitcher said. "She is loved so much more than I think she could possibly ever understand and she is going to be protected probably more than she could ever understand."