View Full Version : Baseball no longer top priority for Chris Hammond

03-06-2006, 04:09 AM
For Hammond, everything has changed but his number
Game no longer top priority for Reds’ lefty

SARASOTA Fla. — Chris Hammond wears uniform No. 45, the same numerals he wore on his back in 1990 when he was a 24-year-old rookie starting pitcher for the Cincinnati Reds.

Nearly everything else has changed for the 40-year-old lefty: his matriculation through eight teams, a switch in job description, a lifestyle metamorphosis.

Now he’s back to his roots and pitched a scoreless, hitless inning Sunday against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in a 7-5 loss.

There was a two-year period, 1999 and 2000, when he didn’t pitch at all. He quit. Left the game. Preferred being home in Wedowee, Ala., with his wife, Lynne, and their three children.

“I was a starting pitcher and after some surgery my fastball was only 82 or 83 miles an hour,” he said. “People lost confidence in my starting ability and at the same time my wife was having a couple of pregnancy problems.

“She was on full bed rest, so I decided to get away from baseball,” Hammond added. “I like being around my family and I thought, ‘Sure, this is going to be it.’”

He was only 32. He was putting together some a family business and a person helping wondered out loud to Hammond’s wife: “Why isn’t he playing baseball?”

Lynne told the guy Chris loved being around the family and in the backwoods of Alabama, “Where it is awesome and I can never wait to get back there.”

Baseball again?

“Lynne thought about it and the only disappointment we had was that my three kids never knew me as a baseball player, other than the pictures,” said Hammond. “I thought, ‘I’m not too old, so I’ll try to get my arm back in shape and, if nothing else, we’ll go to spring training and have a great time.’”

Hammond was reincarnated as a relief pitcher, an extremely successful one — in 221 relief appearances since 2002 with Atlanta, New York Yankees, Oakland and San Diego he was 19-6 record with a 2.47 earned run average.

And his outlook turned around.

“I don’t play professional baseball any more for stats, fame or to get another year under my belt,” he said. “The game no longer is No. 1, with my family No. 2 and everything else after that.

“My wife asked me why it seems now that I play for a different team every year, something that usually happens to bad apples,” he said. “I came to the conclusion that God wasn’t in the equation of my priorities, but now during my comeback I’ve come to realize what God wants and he doesn’t want me to be on the same team year after year.

“I’ve been an outspoken Christian the last three or four years and He wants me to play on as many teams as I can to help players,” he said.

When Hammond came to camp, his Christian attitude was tested immediately.

“This is the first camp I’ve ever been in where pitchers threw the first two days,” he said. “I threw five of the first six days. Did I like it? Not at the time. But now my arm is in really good shape and I feel like I can throw two or three innings now and we’re only into the first week of exhibition games.”

Hammond, ready for three innings, used a miniscule five pitches during his one inning Sunday and the rest of the Reds pitchers could have sopped up an efficiency education.

Asked if pitchers can learn from what Hammond did, manager Jerry Narron said, “Absolutely. He works quick and he knows what he is doing.”

For example, Bubba Nelson didn’t retired any of the first four batters he faced and all four scored, three on a three-run homer by Nick Green.

Meanwhile, the Reds regulars were silent offensively — no hits for five innings until Jacob Cruz’s one-out single in the sixth and Edwin Encarnacion’s run-scoring double. The substitutes scored four in the ninth.

03-07-2006, 10:09 PM
I really think Hammond is going to be a nice asset for this year. A great move by whoever signed him (I think it was DanO).

03-07-2006, 10:34 PM
he should have been signed last year when he was comming off a great season