Josh Hamer, once a promising pitcher for the John Carroll School's varsity baseball team, was killed in a car accident in Bel Air, Md., in early March, just before his sophomore season was set to begin. Known for his infectious kindness off the field and his uplifting energy on it, the 15-year-old Hamer made a lasting impact on those he met.
"Josh always had a smile on his face, and he could light up any room that he walked into, and he was such a humble person," Hamer's mother, Jennifer, said. "He worked hard at everything in life, and he never gloated about it. He was very involved in youth group. He was a devout Christian. And watching him play baseball and football growing up was a blessing. He was just very athletically gifted. At 15, he was throwing a baseball 84-85 mph with ease. I just felt like he was an angel here on Earth, just touching everyone just by his daily action."
Hamer, who was born in Denton, Texas, and lived in North East, Md., had three older brothers -- Jacob, 17, and twins Jason and Justin, 20. He went to Calvert Elementary and Rising Sun Middle in Cecil County before attending John Carroll, a private school in Bel Air, on what was nearly a full scholarship. Hamer excelled in the classroom in addition to the mound, carrying a 4.2 GPA.
The first ball he picked up as a baby was a baseball, according to his mother, "and he loved it." Jennifer placed him in an organized league for the first time when he was 3, and Hamer later began playing football at 6. Hamer broke his hand on his 7th birthday and taught himself how to play baseball with a cast. He was diagnosed with Sever's disease (a heel injury) at 12, meaning he couldn't play baseball or football for six months, but that was merely a speed bump.
Jennifer said her son pushed himself hard in the classroom and on the diamond in seventh and eighth grade to put him in a position to attend John Carroll. Hamer played for John Carroll's junior varsity baseball team as a freshman, and his head coach that year, Matt Backert, noted Hamer's smile and "the compassion that he brought to the playing field and just to life every day."
"There wasn't a moment where you didn't have a conversation with him that he didn't light you up throughout that conversation," Backert said. "Just the way he carried himself, the smile he brought, those are kind of the things, more so than what happened on and off the field, that you remember and you appreciated because you want nothing more than these kids to experience joy with their lives and especially playing baseball, and he definitely had it."
Jennifer said her son paid attention to the small things in life, which he believed could make a difference in somebody's day. She said he "touched so many people that I never even knew."
"He'd be the one that said the prayer at dinner, and he would get up and thank you for dinner. It was just the common courtesies of opening doors regularly for people and the thank-yous and the pleases," Jennifer said. "It came naturally to him. [It doesn't] always come natural to kids that are 15, 16 years old. The offering to help around the house, or around school, or around the baseball field when no one else was offering."
Hamer had what his mother described as "a gift to throw a baseball very hard." Hamer's father, James, grew up in New Jersey and once threw 93 mph. Hamer consistently reached 86 mph during preseason workouts and was on track to be counted on for significant innings on John Carroll's varsity team this spring, according to head coach Darrion Siler. Virginia, Duke and Tulane were among the colleges already recruiting the 6-foot-3, 174-pound Hamer, according to his mother.
This spring, the Patriots played in memory of Hamer, whom Siler said had a "passion for the game and a self-motivation that was uncanny, that you don't see in most young guys," and who represented "the ideal teammate."
John Carroll faced Gilman at Ripken Stadium in the Josh Hamer Memorial Game April 21. Hamer was honored in a pregame ceremony, and his parents were given an IronBirds jersey with his name and number on the back.
Aberdeen IronBirds general manager Matt Slatus, who estimated that 1,500 people were in attendance for the game, said "the ballpark was just filled with love and it was filled with camaraderie, and it allowed the community to take a big step forward in the healing process." The IronBirds will honor Hamer with a No. 25 patch on the sleeve of their jerseys this summer and display a John Carroll Hamer jersey at the ballpark.
Contributions can be made to the Josh Hamer Memorial Scholarship Fund at johncarroll.org/josh. Nearly $37,000 has already been raised, according to Hamer's mother, including $10,000 at Ripken Stadium April 21. She hopes the fund will help someone like Hamer -- a good student and a promising athlete -- go to John Carroll in the future.
Issue 234: June 2017