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Memorial game at Ripken Stadium pays tribute to Josh Hamer

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Before the baseball game began, the entire team spent a few minutes praying on the field together.

Jen Hamer stands on the field alongside James Hamer, admiring the massive crowd at Ripken Stadium. Josh’s teammates and coaches stand in solitude along the foul line as they watch their beloved teammate’s parents receive a personalized jersey with “Hamer #25” written along the back. Tears begin to spill down Jen Hamer’s cheeks as she imagines what it would be like if her son were here to witness this moment.

On Friday, April 21, the community came together once again to honor Josh Hamer, class of ’19, at Ripken Stadium with a memorial baseball game against the Gilman School. In order to pay tribute to Josh, the Aberdeen IronBirds hosted the game to raise money for the Josh Hamer Scholarship and to honor his memory with a dedication ceremony.

During this ceremony, Athletic Director Steve Teter and President and Interim Principal Richard O’Hara presented Josh’s JC baseball jersey to the IronBirds’ General Manager Matt Slatus. In an official announcement, the IronBirds revealed that the encased jersey would remain in the stadium for the rest of the IronBirds season. Once the season is over, the jersey will be relocated to the Club Level at Ripken Stadium where it will permanently remain.

Slatus also provided Josh’s parents with a personalized IronBirds jersey. According to Slatus, “We were honored to present the jersey to his family…We weren’t able to do a lot, but it was something they can hold onto.”

According to Jen Hamer, the exchanging of jerseys was extremely emotional, especially since it was on the baseball field. “I find comfort and solace coming to the baseball field because that’s where he loved to be. I was comforted by all the love and support here and the baseball team over and over,” she said. “[The dedication] was just very overwhelming. Josh always wanted to play professional baseball, and that was his dream. To have his jersey retired in a minor league stadium is pretty neat.”

Jen Hamer plans on adding the specialized IronBirds jersey to a room that will contain pictures of Josh and some of his belongings. “I have a baseball bat that was given to us and different things, so I actually plan on getting some type of case to put all the mementos in that I’ve gotten over the last few weeks and be able to put them with his jerseys,” she said.

Additionally, baseball head coach Darrion Siler was appreciative of the IronBirds’ willingness to host this event for the community. “I was obviously surprised. I was extraordinarily grateful for them to host the event. It was a very generous thing for them to have done,” he said.

Sophomore Dominic Strain, who played football with Josh, believes that the game was an effective way to honor his friend. “It helps everyone come together and celebrate his life, especially through something he loves too, because Josh loved baseball. I think it’s really great of them to do something like this,” Strain said.

According to Jen Hamer, she and James Hamer were appreciative of the amount of people who showed their support for their son. “It’s so much love and adoration. It’s just very overwhelming. I knew how much I loved my little boy, [but] I didn’t realize how much everyone else did,” she said. 

It’s just very overwhelming. I knew how much I loved my little boy, [but] I didn’t realize how much everyone else did.”

— Jen Hamer

Since the game honored Josh, the baseball team felt pressure to win not only for him, but also for his family and the fans in the stadium. However, according to junior pitcher Nick Collier, the roar of the crowd and the endless support helped the team gain confidence. “Everyone was really hyped and excited to play in front of a lot of people. We started off shaky, but then we came back… We want to thank everyone for coming out,” he said.

Siler also helped the team go into the game with a positive mindset and reminded them to be present in the moment. “I told them that their self-worth and their team worth isn’t determined by whether or not we win this game,” he said. “The fact that we’re here to celebrate our friend and teammate is the spotlight for this. We go out there and do the best we can, and we try to win, but that doesn’t define us.”

Sophomore pitcher Brandon Crews felt that playing for Josh was overwhelming, but also extremely important. “At the start of the game, it was emotionally difficult because of his jersey being honored and because the game was for him, but [during] the game, we just kind of did it for Josh, and then we were hoping to win the game,” he said.

The score of the game was 4-5, with Gilman holding onto the lead in the final minutes. Despite the loss, Siler praised the team for playing their hardest and mentioned that Josh would have loved to play in the game. “I think he would’ve wanted to contribute in any way he could have to help the team win,” he said. “He was a competitor, but wasn’t the kind of competitor where you were better than the other person. He was competitive with himself to be the best player he could be.”

Collier also mentioned how Josh would have felt about the game. “It was a really good game, first off, so [it showed] how good baseball is [and] the emotions in it. I think Josh would have been proud of the way we played, and it was great to honor him,” he said.

Similarly, Crews added that the game alleviated some of the pain that comes with losing a close friend. “It’s helped me that a lot of people notice who he actually is. I mean, he was one of my best friends since last year, and it’s just helped get the word around and just bring the community together,” he said.

Furthermore, not only did the game recognize Josh and his love for baseball, but it also helped raise money for a scholarship in his name. According to Slatus, the event raised over $8,000 from donations and about $2,400 from food and refreshments for the Josh Hamer Scholarship.

In regard to the support for Josh, Slatus considered this game one of the best he’s experienced. “In 15 years of professional baseball, I texted my wife and said it was the coolest thing…The community came together and there was a feeling of love and respect…It was beautiful.”

Although the community is still healing, Jen Hamer believes that events like this and the overall support has helped her cope with losing her son. “I guess every day gets a little easier. Josh was my world, he was my baby, and I was with him six days a week for baseball and training and doing everything,” she said. “It’s been very, very hard, but with the support from John Carroll, Harford and Cecil Community, it’s made it at least to where I can function.”

Alyssa Kraus is a Copy Editor and Caroline Cooney is the Editor in Chief for The Patriot and jcpatriot.com.

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Memorial game at Ripken Stadium pays tribute to Josh Hamer