As baseball fans everywhere await the return of “America’s Past Time”, there is a thirst for baseball news and talk of any kind. To that end, I recently had the distinct good fortune to conduct a Q&A with Baltimore’s 2019 13th round draft pick Dan Hammer. Hammer, drafted out of the University of Pittsburgh, spent his first year in the Orioles organization pitching for the Aberdeen Ironbirds (A-Short) where, in 10 appearances (6 starts), he produced a 1-2 record with 1 save.
Here is that Q&A:
- First off Dan, are you and your family healthy and well?
My family and I are staying healthy and doing as well as we can during this time.
- How are all of you coping with the pandemic and dealing with the “new normal”?
We’re all coping with the pandemic in a good way, my parents are still able to work and I try to help them out as much as I can.
- Let’s go back to Spring Training, what was that experience like as to the uncertainty and then the shutdown?
My experience this year at spring training was very positive as far as a development and building up process. As far as the shutdown and the uncertainty surrounding it, as the situation became more serious, it was unclear as to how long the shutdown would last. The news was disappointing when we all heard that spring training was being put on hold.
- What have you been doing to stay in “baseball shape” during the shutdown?
To stay in baseball shape during the shutdown I have been continuing to throw with old teammates from college in my area or throw by myself into a net at a local field. I’ve still been making progressions with my throwing and strength training despite the unclear future of a season ahead.
- Looking back at 2019, what was your first professional baseball season like?
My first professional season was a great starting point for me and especially made me appreciate the game of baseball. From the memories I made with my teammates, and the best hospitality with my host family, I felt like I was in a really good situation for my first year.
- What was your “WOW, this is real” moment?
I guess my “WOW” moment would be my first start in Aberdeen, striking out the first batter of the game. After that I was settled in for the rest of the season and just felt naturally comfortable from that point on.
- How did your years at the University of Pittsburgh prepare you for professional baseball?
My years at Pitt have given me preparation for professional baseball by being in uncomfortable situations whether it was on the mound, weight room, or even on a long bus trip. I feel as though I matured each year I was at Pitt and by the end of my third year I was prepared enough to move on and experience professional baseball. The coaches I’ve played under at Pitt made me mentally tougher and put me in difficult situations from the moment I was a freshman on campus there. Those moments led to a growth in my development as a player and as a person.
- Describe yourself as a pitcher, your repertoire, go-to pitch, etc.
My repertoire is a fastball, change up and a slider. I like to throw my fastball often and move the ball around on both sides of the plate, while throwing a slider and changeup off my fastball.
- What do you need to work on and improve?
I think I need to improve on continuing to focus on first pitch strikes,and putting hitters away sooner when I have them with two strikes.
- Your 2019 numbers were impressive: 35.0 IP, 41 K, 13 BB, 1.29 ERA. How do you improve on them?
I can improve on limiting walks and having quicker innings. This will lead to more strikeouts, longer outings, and more wins.
- I saw you in action on your last start for Aberdeen in August, you threw 75 pitches/50 were strikes, did the organization stress throwing strikes to you?
The Orioles definitely stress throwing strikes often, as any organization would but we’re also taught specific pitch locations for various hitters in different counts. This prevents us from being predictable as to what pitch or location we’re throwing to.
- Did the advanced analytics used in the organization help you in any way?
The analytics in the Orioles organization have definitely helped me realize what type of pitcher I am, and also how to improve on what I’m doing with each pitch.
- Was there a player in particular who helped guide you through your first season?
If I had to name one I’d go with Houston Roth. We joined the Aberdeen team at the same time and were roommates throughout the whole season, while pitching on the same day as well the whole summer. We learned different things from each other and wanted to see each other succeed.
- Who was your baseball idol growing up?
One of my baseball idols growing up was Chase Utley. The way he played the game hard and the right way every day inspired me when I was younger to go play like he did.
- Did you play any other sports growing up?
I was a swimmer aside from baseball when I was growing up, swimming in the summers on my swim club’s team, and in the winter for my grade school.
- Finally, for Orioles fans who haven’t yet seen you pitch, what can they expect from a Dan Hammer start?
Fans can expect an exciting start from me when I’m on the mound. I like to pitch with intensity and go as deep into games as I can. I’m excited to get back on the mound for the Orioles organization as soon as possible.
I would like to thank Dan for being so gracious with his time and for answering my questions. I would also like to acknowledge the assistance of Mr. Paul Kuo of The Bellengee Group in facilitating this Q&A session. It is a pleasure to do these Q&A’s and it is my hope they help fans get to know the players who may shape the future of the Baltimore Orioles.