O’s baby: Baltimore drafts Judge’s Hammer

Dan Hammer was the first pick of the 13th round in last week’s draft. [PHOTO; UNIVERSITY OF PITTSBURGH]
Dan Hammer always knew the day would come.

But that’s about the only thing he expected on his big day.

Hammer, a 2016 graduate of Father Judge High School, has been a top flight pitcher for as long as he can remember.

As a sophomore at Judge, he committed to the University of Pittsburgh. A year later, major league scouts started sniffing around, watching him throw in the high 80s and touching the low 90s. And at Pitt, he showed flashes of brilliance against the top competition in the country.

After three years of top-notch college ball, it was expected he would hear his name called on draft day.

Still, it was an amazing feeling when he saw those words: “With the first pick in the 13th round, the Baltimore Orioles select Dan Hammer.”

With those words, Hammer felt relief, pride and all kinds of happiness.

“It was something that I really wanted, and everything, but the day really didn’t go the way I thought it would,” said Hammer, who found out he was drafted through a combination of watching the draft tracker on MLB.com and following along on Twitter. “I was expecting a call, but that’s not how I found out. I was watching with my family, my parents and my sister, and my girlfriend. We were all crowded around my laptop. It was great. I really didn’t know where I was going to go, but it worked out perfectly. But it was very stressful.”

Hammer was prepared for this day. In fact, had he wanted to turn pro after Judge, he would have been selected in the 2016 draft, but he thought he needed more seasoning. He left Judge as the Catholic League MVP and guided Judge to the Class 6A state playoffs, but as good as he was then, he has just gotten better pitching against players in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

“I’ve grown a lot as a player, it really helped me mature a ton as a player,” Hammer said. “The Catholic League is great competition, but pitching in college, you’re going against great competition. It’s top-of-the-country competition. I learned so much by going there.”

The day was a glorious one for Hammer, who now gets to play the game he’s always loved as a professional. And as happy as he was for himself, he was throwing out praise to those around him for helping him get to the next level.

“My dad was my first coach, and my family has supported me so much,” Hammer said. “All of my coaches, Judge, and the coaches at Pitt were great. They really helped me mature a lot.

“And Chuck Bushbeck really helped me. He was my private instructor. He was a scout for the Angels. He helped me tremendously. A lot of people helped me.”

Hammer knows he has his foot in the door, but now is when the hard work really gets started.

He’ll likely open in rookie ball, he suspects, in Sarasota, Florida, and then he’ll be assigned to a minor league team.

Hammer will go wherever the O’s send him, but he is happy being with a Baltimore organization that will likely keep him in the area. He’s ready to go anywhere, but if it’s in driving distance from his Morrell Park home, that’s even better.

“I’m really grateful for the opportunity,” Hammer said. “Baltimore is a very big baseball town, it’s a great organization and I’m really honored to be part of it.

“It’s great because it’s not too far and their affiliates are even closer, so they’ll be able to come to games. It worked out great. I’m really happy to have this opportunity.”

Now he just has to go out and do what he does best.

Last year wasn’t the greatest for Hammer, but he still impressed scouts enough to get drafted. On the season, he made 13 starts and struck out 80 batters in 66 innings. He finished the season 3-8 with a 6.55 earned run average, but again, he was going against the top players in college baseball.

Now he’s ready to work toward going against the top players in the world. But before the glory comes the work.

“I’m ready to go, I’m just waiting to find out where I’ll be going, it looks like Sarasota and then after that, it could be Aberdeen ,” said Hammer, who was majoring in communications at Pitt and still has hopes of getting his degree during the offseason. “Until then, I’ll just keep working out, working hard, and I’ll be ready to report for rookie ball.”

He’s happy for where he’s going.

He’s also proud of where he’s been, and if he can serve as a role model to the next generation, he’s happy about that.

“I’m glad that I can show people that if you go to Judge, you can play college ball,” said Hammer, who hopes to remain a starting pitcher. “Judge is a blue-collar school, we work hard there. And the baseball team, we’re not St. Joe’s Prep or La Salle, but we can compete with those teams. And if you go to Judge, you can play college ball.”