Movie-goers across the country have piled into theaters lately to see dinosaurs and action heroes, but Orioles fans got their first peek last night at what could be a blockbuster hit for years to come."The Jeffrey Hammonds Story" opened last night at a ballpark near you, and the word of mouth, based on performances in smaller theaters, has been boffo.
In fact, as premieres go, Hammonds got one of the best, rapping a run-scoring single to left in his first major-league at-bat in the sixth inning last night against the New York Yankees, drawing a standing ovation from the Camden Yards faithful.
Later, he smacked an infield single off the chest of Wade Boggs in the eighth, and was walked intentionally in the 10th, when the Orioles completed their rally, beating New York, 7-6.
Hammonds got his introduction when he pinch hit for designated hitter Sherman Obando, who left with cramps in both legs, suffered while running out a grounder to third in the fourth.
"I've never been that nervous before in my life," said a smiling Hammonds. "I stepped into the batter's box and I saw my picture on the screen. I said to myself, "Oh boy, this must be the big time.' "
Hammonds' appearance on the marquee came when the former Stanford University star was called up to replace Brady Anderson, who was placed on the 15-day disabled list when his bout with chickenpox proved to be more severe than originally thought.
Manager Johnny Oates said Anderson, who missed the final two games of the Detroit series, would not have been allowed by team doctors to come back to Oriole Park before next Wednesday or Thursday.
"That's seven days and he's missed two days and it will take him a couple or three days to get back in sync, so we're talking 12 days, so why play short 12 days," said Oates.
Hammonds, who had hit .311 in 36 games at Triple A Rochester, with five homers and 23 RBI, arrived during last night's game after missing a mid-afternoon flight.
He didn't arrive at the park until the bottom of the first, dressed quickly, and sat on the bench, figuring he was going to have some time to take everything in.
"I didn't expect to play and when Sherman went down, Johnny said, 'Grab a bat. You're in there DH-ing," said Hammonds. "I didn't feel comfortable, but that's the best way to do it, just jump right in there."
There has been no shortage of demand for Hammonds, the Orioles' first-round pick in last year's amateur draft, to make his way to Camden Yards.
Hammonds hit .412 in spring training with a homer and four RBI in 11 games before he strained a hamstring muscle and was sent to the Orioles' Double-A affiliate, the Bowie Baysox.
Hammonds hit .300 with Bowie and played a dazzling center field. He moved up to Rochester in May when Mike Devereaux was injured and Buford was called up to fill his spot in Baltimore and went 22-for-60 with two homers, four doubles and 11 RBI in his last 14 games with the Red Wings.
Hammonds said: "It's been a long three months, but it's been very eventful, and it never was to the point where anything was stale, because I was seeing new things and new cities and playing different teams. It was never ordinary."
But while speculation about Hammonds' arrival with the Orioles ran rampant, team officials were hesitant to rush him to the majors, especially with the Orioles' dismal performance in April and early May.
Oates said: "When we were playing so poorly, I'd hate for him to be brought in here and have everybody expect one little guy to turn the whole club around. Now, we're playing better. We had some discussion about who'd be the best guy to call. He's been playing well wherever he's played this year. It's time to give him a chance to go out and see what he can do."