My college team mate Jason Hammel is starting for the Colorado Rockies in a big game 3 against the Phillies on Saturday. The Rockies and Phillies are all tied up at 1 game a piece in the best of 5 series, so game 3 is a big one. Rockies manager Jim Tracy had no question in his mind that he would start Hammel over 15 game winner Jason Marquis. Hammel had a good year in his first year with the Rockies. He was traded to the Colorado the day before the season started this year from the Tampa Bay Rays, who he has been in and out of the rotation with for the past 3 years after being their minor league pitcher of the year in 2006.
Hammel and I went to Junior College in the tiny city of Ontario, Oregon together at Treasure Valley Community College. Back in 2002 we were 2 of the 4 weekend starters in the SWAC (Scenic West Athletic Conference) Junior College conference for the 'Chukars'. That was an interesting year. Our offence battled injuries and a severe lack of power, batting a league (and probably national) low of .193, with 1 home run, all year. Yes, 1 home run, all year. We had a solid pitching staff of 8 guys, 3 sophomore starters all throwing in the low 90's, and me, a 6'6", 185 pound freshman throwing 82-84 MPH. The pitching stats we're interesting that year. I remember Hammel finished the season 4-7 with a 5.07 era and was drafted by the Devil Rays in the 10th round because he sat 93-95 with a filthy curve. I was 1-7 with a 3.69 era that year, relying on location and mixing up speeds.
Don't let him fool you tomorrow, even though he will obviously be in his game day mindset, he's a goofy fella. See if you can see his feet, he has size 9 shoes... which is about 3-4 sizes to small for a 6'6" guy. He was a great mentor to me while we were at TVCC. I looked up to him as a player and a person who I wanted to be like. I even imitated his mechanics to an extent the next year in college bumping my fastball up about 6 MPH. He was one of the positives in my first year out of high school, always being positive and helpful to me. It's no surprise he is where he's at as a big league starter, and in the playoffs now. I wish I had some pictures of us from that year, I would put some up here for sure, not from any of our ridiculous small baseball + softball party nights, but of us working our asses off, doing hours and hours of pitching drills, painting the fence and bleachers at the field, selling oranges as a fundraiser or hanging out in the dorms... damn that was a crazy learning experience of a year. I was lucky enough to be player to present him with a plaque at the end of the year as he was one of the graduating sophomores moving on to a D1 school (even though he signed a couple weeks later).
Here's to hoping he dominates the former world champs, doesn't hang any pitches, and keeps the ball in on Ryan Howard...
ps- I just read that Pedro Martinez will be going for the Phillies.He was my childhood idol, and a guy I was fortunate enough to chat with during the WBC. Should be a great game to watch.