If one had to guess the state that has the most players in professional baseball, many would opt for Texas. The Lone Star State seems to churn out baseball players as Ohio has cloudy days.
Indians righty Caleb Hamrick, a native of Cedar Hill, Texas, is another professional baseball player proud to call Texas his home. He was introduced to the sport as more an outlet for his energy than anything else.
“I was 4 when I started,” Hamrick laughed. ”My mom put me in baseball because I knocked windows out of the house by throwing things around the house.”
Once he got started playing he never looked back, growing up with the sport and eventually, he saw something special.
“I think it was about 9, my first year in select ball and I was just throwing harder than all the other kids,” Hamrick said.
Hamrick attended Cedar Hill High School where he was a four-year starter for the Longhorns. All four years at Cedar Hill Hamrick made All-Districts. During his senior year in 2012 he posted an 8-3 record with 0.99 ERA while striking out 119 along the way. That stellar performance earned him the honor of being named to 1st Team All Region in Texas.
Following that stellar high school career the Indians made the young righty an eighth-round pick in the 2012 draft.
For an 18-year-old kid, just the prospect of finishing high school is enough to get them excited, but add being given the opportunity to play professional baseball and you certainly add a whole new level of excitement.
“I was a little surprised, but not too surprised,” Hamrick said with a smile. “The Indians and a few other teams had been talking to me a few months before the draft so I had a pretty good idea.”
The decision of course is a tough one to make, especially for a player like Hamrick. He had a scholarship to play for Dallas Baptist University but, at the same time, being given the opportunity to play professional baseball right out of high school is too huge a decision to leave to the flip of a coin.
“I signed on the deadline last year,” Hamrick said. “I just felt this would be a lifetime opportunity so I just wanted to get out and play pro ball.”
Since Hamrick signed late, he saw very limited action last season. With the AZL Indians Hamrick made five appearances, logging 8.1 innings, striking out six, and walking two to the tune of a 3.24 ERA.
Even though it was a very small sample size, Hamrick seemed to handle himself well in the brief stint.
“Yeah, I was prepared,” Hamrick said. “I had a pretty good high school pitching coach and I played in a lot of big games in high school, so I was pretty prepared.”
Fast forward to the 2013 season and the 6’2” 210-pound righty was looking forward to logging his first full season of professional baseball. Through five starts this season with Short Season Single-A Mahoning Valley, Hamrick owns a record of 1-3 to go along with a 5.11 ERA in 24.2 innings. He’s also struck out 15 and walked five to go along with a .240 batting average against him.
Although the ERA may appear high, it is something of a misleading stat for Hamrick. The bulk of the runs he allowed this season were surrendered in two starts, during which he allowed 11 runs in eight and two-thirds innings. Meanwhile, in his other three starts spanning 16 innings, he has allowed just three earned runs.
“My third start I just didn’t have it, didn’t have the stuff,” Hamrick said thoughtfully. “Just arm was dead, nothing was really alive, and my fourth start they just got a couple lucky hits.”
What he has demonstrated in those other three superb starts is the ability to put away hitters with ease and, when needed, he can reach back for a little extra and blow them away.
“I’m just trying to get better fastball command, get my velocity up,” Hamrick said. “Just tweak some things in my mechanics and sharpen everything up.”
When originally scouted by the Indians they saw his fastball and slider as a great one-two pitch combination. The hope was he could develop good secondary stuff that would give him an added look and help him put away hitters more successfully as a starter.
“I throw probably an average fastball but I can get it up there a little bit,” Hamrick said with a smile. “I use my off-speed a lot of the time too. I have three pitches right now – splitter, slider, and a curveball – that I’m working on.”
For every pitcher, confidence in their arsenal is a huge part of their game. Most have their pitch or two that they designate as their out pitch, meaning nine times out of ten hurling that pitch will lead to good results.
“Fastball, slider and now it’s starting to become the splitter,” Hamrick said.
As for the weather, you would not think it is much a change playing summers in Ohio compared to Texas. This part of the country is new to the young righty but he seems to have adjusted well to the humidity, although maybe all the rain might be a change.
“I’ve never actually been up to the northeast,” Hamrick said in a matter-of-fact manner. “It’s pretty good. I like the weather so far. In Dallas it’s a little bit hot but it’s the same humidness.”
As for the question of what makes Texans so good at baseball, Hamrick joked, “I think just the weather. You can play year-round and you have so much opportunity to do so much stuff and train.”
Photo: Jesse Piecuch/DTTWLN photographer