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April 18, 2006 - Image 15

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The Michigan Daily, 2006-04-18

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The Michigan Daily - Tuesday, April 18, 2006 - 15

Hammond rebounds from arm
injury to lead Blue's rotation

By Chris Herring
Daily Sports Writer
Some athletes are hit square in the face
with adversity.
But for fifth-year senior Paul Hammond,
the shot went to his arm instead.
Just over four years ago, on a cold, blustery
day in Champaign, former Wolverine pitcher
Jim Brauer took not one, but two line drives
off his body while facing Illinois, forcing him
out of the game.
Because of Brauer's injury, Hammond,
then a freshman, was forced to warm up
quicker than usual in just the sixth outing of
his career.
"I remember having to get ready real quick
because (Brauer) took a line drive off the
thigh," Hammond said. "Then he stayed in the
game, and the next hitter hit him in the thigh,
almost in the same spot. We needed someone
to go in real quick, so I went out there."
Then it happened.
"I had the kid down 0-1, then I threw a
curveball for a strike," the left-hander said.
"But, when I threw it, it felt like someone had
hit my funny bone."
Despite having the batter down 0-2, Ham-
mond issued a walk. The pitcher was then
erratic, alternating strikeouts and walks for
the next four hitters. With the bases loaded,
he fell behind 3-1 to the final hitter he would
face.
"I remember throwing a fastball for a
strike, but, as soon as I threw it, I couldn't feel
my hand," he said. "I couldn't feel my arm
anymore."
Hammond tore his ulnar collateral liga-
ment in the medial elbow. Surgery to recon-
struct his elbow, best known as Tommy John
surgery, was necessary to get him back on the
field. But even with the surgery, there was no
guarantee that he would ever be able to pitch
again.
"It was a crushing blow," he said. "I lost

it. You never expect that the worst is going to
happen. I cried and called my dad. You know
you're going to be out for the season and all of
next season. But then it hits you that there's the
possibility that you will never play again."
Most people who are operated on have time
between the surgery and their rehab assign-
ments, but this was not the case for Hammond.
Doctors performed surgery on June 5, 2002.
The next day, Hammond started his rehab.
"They took a tendon out of my foot (to
replace the torn ligament), so I actually had to
do rehab on my foot too," he said. "It was fine
though. There was no swelling in my foot,
and I had my arm in a sling."
Although things were improving for him
physically, Hammond had something else
to worry about. Michigan coach Rich Malo-
ney was hired when Hammond was on the
shelf, leaving the possibility that the newly
hired coach could cut his roster spot - and
scholarship.
"It was so hard," Hammond said. "All I
could do was run, or go get things. That was
all I could show him. That is so hard as a
player, because you have a new coach who
has no idea who you are. There was nothing I
could do to impress him. I thought there was
a chance I was going to get cut and that he
would say, 'We don't think you are going to
be able to help us'. "
Maloney admitted that it wasn't a simple
decision to keep Hammond around.
"He had the heart of a champion," the
fourth-year coach said. "I knew that he was
working hard, but it was tough, because I
couldn't see what he could do."
Hammond stepped back on the mound for
the Wolverines in 2004 - a season and a
half removed from his injury. His first perfor-
mance back wasn't what he had hoped for.
"The very first game I came back, it was
weird," Hammond said. "It was almost the
same situation. (Brauer) was on the mound,
and I don't know whether he got hurt or what-

I

ever, but I had to get ready (to pitch) real
quick. It was like 34 degrees in Florida; it
was so cold out there. It had been two-and-a
half years since I last pitched (at Michigan). I
didn't even record an out. I walked five guys
and gave up a hit. That's the thing with the
elbow surgery - it's like you have a brand
new arm."
But amazingly, the new arm worked
wonders for him later in the 2004 season.
Hammond pitched his way to All-Big Ten
recognition, going 5-1 with a 2.05 ERA
within conference play. Opponents hit just
.192 against him - the best in the Big Ten
that season. His five wins came against
Minnesota, Ohio State, Michigan State,
Penn State and Purdue - the five teams
other than Michigan to advance to the Big
Ten Tournament.
"Two years ago, I honestly believed that for
the last six games, he was the best pitcher in
this league," Maloney said.
In 2005, he posted a 4-3 record for the
team, and earned Academic All-Big Ten
honors. That award, he said, is his favorite,
because "being Academic All-Big Ten at
Michigan is clearly different from doing it at
another school."
As for this season, he was named a co-cap-
tain of the team and is looked to for leader-
ship. Hammond, who at one point preferred
not to associate with his teammates much,
is proudest of his decision to branch out and
become more approachable.
"Being a fifth-year senior, you start to
realize that it is all going to be over some-
day," he said. "I've tried to make a lot of
personal relationships. I used to be the
kind of guy who on the field would say,
'Hey guys what's up?' and off the field say,
'I'm out.' This year, I love all these guys.
That is definitely a goal I have achieved
so far. Of course, there is always pitching
well and giving my team a chance to win.
That's all I can really do."

TOMMASO GOMEZ/Daily
Paul Hammond recovered from arm surgery to become a productive member of Michigan's pitching staff.

Facebook invitations, flyers
help 'M'-Nine fill The Fish

By H. Jose Bosch
Daily Sports Writer
While perusing Facebook events to
plan your next night of debauchery, you
might have come across an interesting
entry scheduled for last Friday.
"Fill the Fish vs. Ohio State" was

an event created by senior
catcher Jeff Kunkel in an
attempt to draw as many fans
as possible to Michigan's
first night game of the year.
Sans the octogenarians sit-
ting in the crowd who lack
access to the popular college
networking website, the idea
Friday night's crowd of 1,451

90 oa
worked.
marked;

and for his teammates.
"That's the kind of guy Jeff is - he's
a leader," junior Leif Mahler said. "He
wants fans at the game, and it's a great
idea, and I'm glad he did that. I think it
really paid off. Today's fan base was
unbelievable."
NATIVE SON: Friday wasn't only the first
night game of the season. It also
marked the first Big Ten start for
Wolverine freshman Zach Put-
nam.
The Ann Arbor native played
high school ball in the shadow
of Michigan Stadium at Pioneer
High School. A large contingent
of Pioneer baseball players attended the
game to cheer on its former teammate.
"It was a lot of fun:' Putnam said of
pitching in front of his old high school
team. "It's great. Everybody told me they
were going to come out and support me.
And for everybody that did come out, I
appreciate it."
Putnam didn't disappoint. In 7 1/3
innings, the freshman allowed just one
run while giving up eight hits and striking
out one. He improved his record to 2-0.
ANYTHING FOR THE W: Junior Leif Mahler
was looking for a fastball outside.
Luckily for him,the pitcher caught him
off-guard and threw a curveball.
In the eighth inning of Michigan's third
game of the series, senior A.J. Scheidt led
off with a single. Junior Mike Schmidt

bunted Scheidt over to second base, and
junior Eric Rose was intentionally walked
to give Mahler a chance to win the game.
With Michigan needing a hero, Mahler
did exactly what great men do.
He checked his swing and hit a blooper
that hung excruciatingly in the air for
what seemed like forever.
But the ball finally dropped in between
Ohio State first baseman J.B. Shuck and
rightfielder Wes Schirtzinger, allow-
ing Scheidt to score from second base.
The run gave the Wolverines their third
straight win this weekend and fifth
straight in the Big Ten.
"Honestly, I thought it was going to be
caught, and I was furious with myself"
Mahler said. "But then about halfway
down the line, I realized it was in there
and got pumped up."
"It was beautiful, the best hit all day,"
Kunkel said
WELCOME BACK: The football team's
spring practice may also have been on
Saturday, but that didn't keep former
Michigan wideout Braylon Edwards
from coming out to the Fish to throw out
the first pitch of the doubleheader's sec-
ond game.
Unlike Vice President Dick Cheney,
Edwards hit the strike zone to a chorus
of cheers. The current Cleveland Brown
stayed for a little while after the game,
signing autographs for a throng of young
fans.

the highest attendance at a home game
this year.
"(The players were) just trying to get
as many people as we could to come
out and support us in a big game,"
Kunkel said. "Hopefully, people come
out and enjoy themselves. (We're) just
trying to let people know, if they don't
know what's going on, Ohio State is
Michigan's biggest rival in the country.
So come out and enjoy it."
The team also promoted the game the
old-fashioned way, with flyers posted
all over campus. But Kunkel's unique
attempt to round up fans is a testament to
the dedication the Oak Forest, Ill., native
has for the Michigan baseball program

TOMMASO GOMEZ/Daily

Senior Jeff Kunkel utilized facebook.com to help boost attendance for Friday night's game at The Fish.

- Undergraduate & Graduate courses - Morning,
afternoon and evening classes * Saturday morning
* Outstanding faculty - Off-campus courses
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