Josh Hamer loved baseball. On Friday night at Ripken Stadium in Aberdeen, baseball loved him back a little.
Hamer, who was killed in a car accident March 2 in Churchville, was honored with the inaugural Josh Hamer Memorial game, where his John Carroll teammates played Gilman in a Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference matchup. Proceeds raised went to a scholarship fund named in Hamer's honor.
"This is the exact way to honor Joshua," said James Hamer, Josh's father. "I knew my son was an amazing person, but I really didn't know the depths of how much he was loved. It's been remarkable the support we've received from the school, the IronBirds, and the community. It's been remarkable."
In a pregame ceremony, the school gave one of Hamer's jerseys, which will be displayed for the remainder of the year on the club level at Ripken Stadium, to the IronBirds. In return, the team gave one of its jerseys, with Hamer's name and No. 25 on the back, to James and Josh's mother, Jen.
Gilman coach Larry Sheets said he feels for the Hamer family and that the tragedy of Hamer's loss is hard for him to comprehend.
"I have two children of my own, and I just don't think anybody can put into words what it's like to lose a child," Sheets said. "Baseball is important, and from what I've heard it seemed to be important to Josh, but this really puts life into perspective for me. I've never been a part of anything like this."
Hamer's teammate Brandon Crews says this game will help him and his teammates deal with Josh's loss.
"It's tough. Some days are better than others, and I cry sometimes when I'm alone. I know one thing, though," Crews said. "This is a joyful day. I feel like tonight I'll look out on the mound and see him smiling and laughing, just like he always did."