Hammel travels long road to Opening Day start
Some of Jason Hammel’s earliest baseball memories involve games of catch in the backyard with his older brother, Bill. They would play other things, including home run derby in the cul de sac out front, but their father, William, had designed and built a pitching target for the two boys, complete with a strike zone and ball retrieval bucket, and most of their sessions were spent out there, with a makeshift pitching mound.
It was a rare treat when William, who worked for and later started his own own steel erection company, got out of work early enough to play and Jason, who was about 9 years old, remembers that day well. There they were, a perfect little trio relaying the ball back and forth in Port Orchard, Wash., when William asked his sons, “What do you want to be when you are grown-ups?”
Easy, the two young Hammels answered: Major League Baseball players.
“You’d expect your dad to be like, ‘Yeah, all right, we will keep working hard on it and see what happens,'” Jason said. “But he pretty much shot it down.”
The odds were against them, William explained to his sons. It was really hard to do, and they may want to consider doing something else.
“I can see it maybe as him trying to motivate us, but I can also see it now as me being like, ‘I told you so,'” Hammel said of the exchange. “That’s always been a motivating factor for me.”
In the journey from that tall, skinny kid from Washington to the Orioles’ Opening Day starter against the Rays on Tuesday at 3:10 p.m. ET, the 30-year-old Hammel has had plenty of other skeptics along the way. It makes the transition from his bullpen demotion in Colorado to Baltimore’s No. 1 starter in a year-and-a-half span even more incredible.
“I had heard that he wasn’t that competitive,” pitching coach Rick Adair said of Hammel, who came to the O’s in a trade with the Rockies on Feb. 6, 2012. “It’s just the opposite. He’s very competitive, he expects a lot of himself. He wants to be a guy that this club counts on. He wants that opportunity. He relishes it.”
And, most importantly, Hammel now knows how to handle it.
Read the full feature story on Hammel’s journey and how he turned around his career here.