Hammer nails success after surgeryWritten by Mike Bauman | | firstname.lastname@example.org
No matter what the sport or age, player injuries are inevitable and, unfortunately, some come at a crucial point in an athlete’s career. University of Toledo junior outfielder Ben Hammer’s collegiate career started on a good note in the 2009 season. Just as things were coming together, Hammer’s career was temporarily put on hiatus during his sophomore year after the lefty underwent Tommy John surgery in the fall of 2009.
“I’ve never really had any other serious injuries that lasted more than maybe a couple weeks,” Hammer said in a phone interview with Toledo Free Press.
Hammer was a three-sport star in high school, lettering four years in baseball and football and three years in basketball at Elmwood. In his freshman season at Toledo, Hammer made 26 starts in the 31 games he appeared in for the Rockets and hit .283 with 17 RBI and 18 runs scored, including a .333 batting average with 13 RBI and 13 runs scored in Mid-American Conference play. He followed that early collegiate success with a nice summer in 2009 as a member of the Winchester Royals in the Valley Baseball League, batting .281 with 17 RBI, 16 runs scored and a team-high four triples in 38 games.
“I think it was just like a wear and tear,” Hammer said about the injury. “I didn’t have a one-throw type thing like a lot of people do. I remember when I came back in the fall, one of the first long tosses [I did], that’s when it really started hurting, but I don’t remember a pop or anything like that.”
After the surgery in the fall of 2009, Hammer was back on the field for summer league baseball in 2010, though he didn’t start throwing again until he rejoined his Toledo teammates this past fall. While having Tommy John surgery at the beginning of his sophomore season was a disappointing setback, the nearly yearlong rehab process Hammer endured to get back on the field was eased through a strong support group.
“We had a really good physical therapist at UT,” Hammer said. “It was a very positive experience throughout, and also I had a bunch of teammates that had the surgery, too, so they kind of helped me out throughout the whole process. You have to work hard at it, but you have so much support that it wasn’t too hard getting through it.”
Also aiding in that process was Rockets head coach Cory Mee, who helped Hammer focus on the positive, telling him to trust in the hard work he put in during rehabilitation and his ability to come back and play again.
“It’s kind of funny,” Mee said. “We had that conversation before practice one day, and that day in practice there was a man on second with two outs and Ben was playing centerfield. There was a base hit to center, and he comes up and he threw the guy out at home plate, and I think from that time forward he was fine.”
Hammer has been more than fine. As of May 12, the Wayne, Ohio, native leads Toledo in batting average (.352) and on base percentage (.438), also ranking second on the team in slugging percentage (.436), hits (58) and RBI (25). In addition to his on-field success, last week Hammer was named to the Capital One Academic All-District IV University Division First Team. An exercise science major, Hammer has a cumulative GPA of 3.81.
“I’m very proud of Benny for the accomplishments he’s had in the classroom,” Mee said. “He’s done an outstanding job, and I couldn’t be happier with his performance. It takes a certain level of discipline to be successful academically to make sure that you’re getting your work done and you’re studying, and I think it relates to success on the field.”
And while Hammer battled through adversity with Tommy John surgery, as an exercise science major he also took it as a learning experience for his future.
“My goal is to go to med school when I’m finished,” Hammer said. “This whole injury process has actually kind of solidified what I wanted to do. As an exercise science major, it’s definitely good in that regard because I kind of learned what actually happened to my arm.”