SCOTCH PLAINS/FANWOOD, NJ -- On a beautiful day for baseball, Raider alumnus and former MLB All-Star Jeffrey Hammonds returned to Scotch Plains-Fanwood varsity field to have his No. 11 retired by his high school team during Alumni Day festivities on Saturday.
The event reunited Hammonds with two of his former coaches. Mike Christadore was the head coach of the Raiders in 1987 and in their Sectional Title season of 1988. He would later take the reins at West Essex and Nutley. Coach Brian Homm won a Sectional Title with the Raiders in his debut season of 1989. He went on to coach the team through the 2003 season.
Jeffrey Hammonds, a 1989 graduate, was a two-time Sectional champ and All-State player for the Raiders. He was an All-Pac-10, two-time All-American selection as an outfielder at Stanford University, where he competed in two NCAA College World Series. He also set the Pac-10 career record by stealing 102 bases in his career. In 1992, he played for
the US Olympic team in Barcelona. That year, he was drafted fourth overall in the first round by the Baltimore Orioles -- ahead of Derek Jeter. Hammonds made a swift ascent through the minor leagues and became a Major Leaguer by the end of 1993.
Hammonds remained an Oriole through the 1998 season before being traded to Cincinnati. From there, he went to the Colorado Rockies in 2000, where he batted .335 with 20 HR and 106 RBI and 14 SB, and was named to the National League All-Star team. He would go on to play 13 big league seasons and retired in 2005 as a .272 career hitter with 110 HR, 423 RBI, and 67 SB. Hammonds now serves the Major League Baseball Player Association as Director
of Player Development, Programs, and Initiatives.
Coach Joe Higgins welcomed the former Major Leaguer -- the only one ever produced by Scotch Plains-Fanwood, according to Baseball-Reference.com.
"Today, we welcome all parents, alumni, and friends of Raider baseball to join us in honoring Jeffrey and officially retire his Raider #11," Coach Higgins, fresh off his team's County championship, told the crowd.
Hammonds did not take the microphone, instead choosing to speak with the current Raiders team, take pictures with fans and greet old friends, teammates and the Mayors of Scotch Plains and Fanwood.
"All of you guys are on a journey; it's something you never forget," Hammonds told his successors at Scotch Plains-Fanwood varsity field. "Play and compete. It will be somebody different every day."
"I didn't do showcases. Somebody saw me on the right day," said about getting his big break. "Just play. Keep it simple. It's funny folks sit up there and think it's easy. Don't worry about failure. It's what do you to learn from it."