Elijha Hammill was having trouble at home in Oakville, Ontario.
The 17-year-old infielder who hit the switch could see the end of winter after a season shortened by the pandemic in which he could only play a handful of exhibition games, but an end to his province’s lockdown protocols was nowhere in sight and at home stay order. He’d spent most of the off-season pounding a tee into a net, throwing balls against the wall of his parents’ garage, and lifting weights in the basement, and it had become tiring.
“As a Canadian, you’re stuck inside because of the cold winter weather, and when it’s time to go outside you’re ready to go outside,” said Hammill. “But when you’re in lockdown and you’re closed and you’re not supposed to sit on a diamond or play with your teammates, it drives you a little crazy.
“Nothing was going on and this is a big, important year. I felt like I had to get out, I have to play now. … I needed a team that I could interact with and play with because I have to play games, show myself and increase my stocks from my seat. “
Like many young Canadians looking forward to the July draft, the Utah Committee quickly realized that spring options at home would be limited, and fortunate enough to head south, it has. For over three months Hammill spent his time on the diamond in the United States, first at the Georgia Premier Academy – along with Canadian teammate and 302nd draft prospect Mitch Bratt – and now in the MLB Draft League with West Virginia Black bears.
While in Georgia, Hammill took some time to review his strengths and areas of development and fill out a scouting report on himself using a form previously used by MLB’s scouting office. The young infielder wasn’t very familiar with the scouting scale, but he tried it and offered several big jumps from his current grades to his future grades, with some future Hall of Fame predictions.
“I love this game so I’ll do everything I can to be the best,” said Hammill. “Work hard, of course, revise everyone. Not only do I play against the other team, I compete against guys across the country or in other countries so I have to work my bum, take advantage of every moment I have and make sure I take care of my body and lead every day my best.”
Elijha Hammill by Josh Norris on Scribd
In addition to assessing himself and defining the details based on the report, Hammill has broken down each of his tools further to outline what makes him successful now and what will help him in the future.
“I’ve played in the big league with Team Canada and I’ve done pretty well,” said Hammill. “I’m a base hit guy. I don’t do a lot of home runs, but I very often associate the run with the ball … It starts with my approach of not chasing bad pitches and following those that I can really drive. Good discipline, choosing my pitches correctly and doing a lot of tee-offs and front toss in the other direction.
“I tend to go on either side and open up so I really have to work on staying closed and shooting the ball the other way. I have hands fast enough to really get around and pull the ball, but I get hit more on outside than inside, so I have to work on staying closed and pushing the ball the other way. “
Earlier this year, the 497th draft prospect made some changes to his posture and starting position in the batter’s box as a means to an end.
“I’m usually up in the box so when it comes I can get the ball out before it dies in the dirt or whatever could happen, so I can really pull and crush the ball,” he said. “But now I’m staying deeper in the box so I have more time to see the ball and load it, wait a little longer and drive in the other direction.
“To get better at what I’m trying to do, I’ve worked a lot off the tee, worked the other way, trying to get my demeanor to go straight back to the pitcher. When I step, instead of opening my foot, I walk straight to the pitcher, keep myself closed, and then fire my hands through. I do this for a few rounds from either side of the tee and then we turn that into a soft throw to make sure I stay balanced and don’t open up, and from the soft throw we get the upper hand. “
From one side of the plate to the other, Hammill always does the same job and goes through an identical routine. In practice, he finds more similarities than anything else on either side, although they distinguish a thing or two from one another.
“The only difference is my stance, which I tried to do the same,” said Hammill. “With my right side, I am completely in line with my feet. On the left side, I tend to open my posture a little and that’s because of the habit of closing myself off. One thing I can work on either side is walking towards the pitcher instead of closing or opening.
“On the left side I’m more of a contact type, I can connect for basic hits and make good contact, and on the right side I have a lot more power.”
Hammill enjoys running, something he gets from his mother who ran in college. He’s been on the track since he was 12, and since working with the Performance Lab in Toronto in its off-season, he’s broadened his running skills to include moves that are more appropriate for baseball.
“We do a lot of agility and speed exercises,” said the 5-foot, 11, 200-pound infielder. “We did a lot of hurdle exercises that focused on the explosiveness of getting off the ground and being quick with our feet. I kept making long jumps, lifting off the ground, trying to be explosive and fast at the same time. And (in the season) I do sprints every day, and … for the overall speed I jog on the warning track every day to get the feeling of running longer distances. So there are a lot of exercises, hip rotations and band work just to open my hips and stay flexible and in good shape, a lot of stretching and a lot of running. “
“At the moment I have a hard time understanding how much time I have as a young player and really counting the jumps,” said Hammill. “At second base I should understand that I have a lot of time and the throw isn’t that difficult – it’s just a short, precise throw that I have to do. You have to be faster on the shortstop, but I usually throw down from the side from the second, which is not the best option for getting a lot of bike. So when I go to the shortstop, I automatically throw from above and I get more bikes from it. “
In his own assessment of his field, Hammill defensively jumped four full marks from his present to future ability. He knows he has significant improvements ahead of him and looks forward to getting there.
“To do this big jump, I have to do a lot of reps, count the jumps, and keep my feet under me,” said Hammill. “I really have to work on that, because without good feet and working on the ball, you won’t be that successful as an infielder. So timing, footwork and building arm strength to achieve a strong and accurate throw. “
“I’m not my adult strength yet,” said Hammill. “Working with the Performance Lab and all the work I do on my own makes me a lot stronger and hopefully bigger too. I started using a coach racket, which is a longer and heavier racket, to improve racket speed and control of my normal racket. I always warm up with it, which helps me shoot my hands through and have more control. As soon as I pick up my racket after using my coach racket, it feels like a twig. That helps me with forearm strength and the overall speed of the club, I have a much better swing and I will make better connections with the ball and propel it a lot. “
“Build strength and just take care of it,” said Hammill. “I don’t freeze much, but it’s important to take care of my body and make sure I get stronger. Lots of shoulder exercises, including J-band work. Even when I’m lying on my bed and doing nothing, I look for exercises that could help me increase the strength in my arm. “
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