By STEVE KRAH
With support from the community and the school system, Lawrence “Buster” Hammond Jr., is now leading the baseball program at South Bend (Ind.) Washington High School.
Hammond had a call-out meeting about a month ago that drew 25 players. He has since picked up a few more who are interested in representing the Panthers and the West Side.
As he searches for a coaching staff, Hammond will continue to look for potential athletes both in the hallways and baseball organizations.
With enough players, Washington may be able to field three teams in 2019 — varsity, junior varsity and freshmen (or C-team).
Washington is in the Northern Indiana Conference (with Bremen, Elkhart Central, Jimtown, John Glenn, Mishawaka, Mishawaka Marian, New Prairie, Penn, South Bend Adams, South Bend Clay, South Bend Riley and South Bend St. Joseph).
The Panthers are in an IHSAA Class 3A sectional grouping with Culver Military Academy, Jimtown, John Glenn, Mishawaka Marian, New Prairie and South Bend St. Joseph. Washington’s last two sectional titles came in 1996 and 1997 — the final two years of single-class sports.
“Washington baseball alumni have really supported me,” says Hammond. “I’ve jumped on to their legacy and how great they used to be.”
Hammond says Washington High School administrators — athletic director Garland Hudson, principal Thomas Sims, assistant principals Dr. Nicole Garcia and Trent Chambliss and CSI coordinator Ryan Frontczak — have also been in his corner.
There’s also been backing from Mark Haley and Doug Buysse at the South Bend Cubs 1st Source Bank Performance Center.
“They’ve really supporting me and I appreciate it,” says Hammond.
The son of the late Lawrence “Buster” Hammond Sr., and Joann Cale, Hammond is a 1998 graduate of Middletown (Del.) High School. He was a three-sport athlete for the Cavaliers, earning all-conference in football, starting as a sophomore and junior in basketball (missing his senior season with a broken leg) and being recognized as all-state and all-conference outfielder in baseball.
Middletown baseball coach Richard Green taught Hammond that the diamond sport is “hardest mental game you’ll ever play.”
“That’s absolutely true,” says Hammond. “You can be on top of the world one game and on the bottom of the world the next.”
Green also let his players know that adversity and failure is a part of life and those life lessons can be learned through baseball.
“I would be riding high then go 0-for-13 or something,” says Hammond, who swang from the left side of the plate. “I found out you’re not always going to be good at something. But you have to work hard at it and it will play off.
“Hitting is a muscle memory and a confidence thing. I would just kept going and be persistent. I’d get more swings in the cage and focus in on little stuff. I’d make sure I was perfecting my skills in the outfield so I didn’t let my team down there.”
Hammond played two seasons at Cecil College, a junior college in North East, Md., and two at NCAA Division I Delaware State University in Dover, Del.
At Cecil, Hammond worked with head coach Charlie O’Brien and assistant Clyde Van Dyke and learned how to stay consistent at the plate and foul off the pitches he could not hit squarely.
Hammond encountered head coach J.P. Blandin and assistant Clint Ayers at Delaware State.
“(Ayers) taught me a lot about hitting like a two-strike approach,” says Hammond. “Most hitters want to hit to their power (the pull-side). (With two strikes, you) let the ball travel and hit it on the back side. (Ayers) changed our stance a little bit. You hit the ball where it’s pitched and let your hands be the engine and everything else follows.”
With that advice, Hammond’s confidence took off and the ball began jumping off his bat as a DSU Hornet.
Hammond moved to South Bend in November 2007, following the woman that would become his wife she took a job at the University of Notre Dame. She now works in insurance for the NCAA.
Buster worked six years for the Boys & Girls Clubs of St. Joseph County, coaching youngsters in flag football, basketball and soccer at Wilson Elementary. He’s also coached his son in flag football and baseball at Chet Waggoner Little League.
Hammond started as a Family & Consumer Science teacher at Washington in August.
Married now for eight years, Buster and Nikki Hammond have four children together — kindergartener Langston (6), pre-schooler Hazel (3) and twins Isadora and Iris (who turn 1 on Dec. 11). Buster’s two older children are Dominic (15) and Kamille (14).
Lawrence “Buster” Hammond Jr., is entering his first sas