Brad Hamilton’s big day tops storylines from 2014 CIC Hardball Classic
By Alex Gimenez
It’s been quite a year thus far for the Hamilton family.
Indians play-by-play man Tom Hamilton was honored with his sixth Ohio Sportscaster of the Year Award by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association. His oldest son, Nick, has continued to develop in the Indians farm system and received a start with the big league club in Spring Training with his proud father watching from the press box.
Most recently, Hamilton’s youngest son, Brad, a senior and starting catcher at Avon Lake, made a splash at Progressive Field through the Cleveland Indians Charities Hardball Classic, presented by Novacare Rehabilitation.
As part of a family with strong ties to Northeast Ohio, Brad grew up living in the shadows of Progressive Field, coming out to the ballpark in the summers once school had closed out for the year. The allure of Major League Baseball hooked the youngest Hamilton and helped to drive him towards a future in the game. The opportunity to play at Progressive Field thus carried with it some extra emotions.
“This is just an awesome experience, getting to play where we all grew up watching the Tribe and wishing we could play on that field. It’s a really neat opportunity,” he said of the experience.
Brad is unquestionably a leader on the Shoremen varsity baseball team. As a senior, team captain and catcher, he is charged with managing not only his pitching staff but the entire Avon Lake roster, and it is clear that his teammates look up to his leadership both on and off the field. On the field, he has done quite well for himself, following in his brother’s footsteps by earning an offer to play for Kent State as a member of the Golden Flashes baseball team.
With high school baseball season just under way in Northeast Ohio after one of the harshest winters in recent memory, Brad and his Avon Lake teammates were faced with an early test, taking on a powerhouse St. Ignatius. The Shoremen had lost this same matchup at the big-league ballpark last season, and in what would amount to his final high school game here, Brad wanted nothing more than a victory for his team.
Standing underneath the ballpark in the Indians batting cages, Brad was living the life of a big leaguer. He was hitting in the same batting cages that many of the players he’d looked up to over the years had used during their stay with the Tribe. Moments later, he walked out towards the home bullpen to warm up his starting pitcher, Avon Lake ace Logan DeLong, following the same path that Tribe great Sandy Alomar Jr. might have taken to warm up Charles Nagy before an early April Indians game in the 1990s.
“Bradley was so excited about getting to warm up his pitcher in the bullpen and hitting under the ballpark in the batting cages, all things that when you are around the game you take for granted,” Tom Hamilton said. “Every kid dreams of being able to play in the big leagues and they got to experience what that would be like for a day.”
Brad Hamilton was behind the plate for the first pitch, and it would not take much longer for him to take center stage in the ballgame, where he struck early and often. In the bottom of the first, Avon Lake loaded the bases with nobody out, bringing Hamilton to the plate. Standing confidently in the box, he lined a two-run single into left-center field to put the Shoremen on the board. The rally would continue as Avon pushed across a total of five runs in the first inning.
Not wasting any time, Hamilton came to the plate in the second inning, again with the bases loaded. On the first pitch, he drove a ball into the gap in left-center field, driving home two more runs to give his team a 7-0 lead. The hit wound up being the game-winner as Avon Lake held on for a 7-5 victory, and Hamilton would finish 2-3 with 4 RBIs.
“It was an unbelievable experience and to get the win is just a bonus,” he said. “I was really happy with everyone’s approach, the guys really battled before me and I was just lucky to be in that situation [to drive in the winning runs].”
The Hamilton family is enjoying a strong year in baseball this year, but understand very well that this game can be unrelenting, with every hitting streak there comes a slump and with success there comes failure.
“We’ve been very blessed and we know how fortunate we are. Baseball is a game with many ups and downs and my kids know that, and we cherish that the boys have had these great experiences thus far this year,” said Tom Hamilton.
Since 1989, CIC has donated nearly $10 million to youth-oriented agencies and organizations of Northeast Ohio, including a $1 million donation in April 2012 to the Boys and Girls Clubs of Cleveland’s “Save the Kids” campaign. Additionally, Cleveland Metropolitan School District high school baseball and softball programs are made possible due to the multi-million-dollar commitment from CIC.
Hardball Classic game recaps
Avon Lake 7, St. Ignatius 5
Avon Lake struck first in the bottom of the first inning with five runs off of Ignatius starter Bennett Kinzel. After loading the bases with nobody out, Hamilton delivered a two-run single to get the scoring started. In the second, Hamilton again delivered for Avon Lake with the bases loaded, driving in two more runs to give the Shoremen a 7-0 lead. Hamilton would finish the day at 2-3 with 4 RBI.
“I don’t know if you can find a hotter hitter in baseball in Northeast Ohio,” Avon Lake head coach Jay Fowler said of Hamilton . “He’s a fabulous talent and a hard worker, and we’re just really happy for him.”
For the Shoremen, starter and ace Logan DeLong worked a scoreless first inning before being lifted from the game to preserve his arm after throwing earlier in the week. He was relieved by Logan Montague, who worked four strong innings, surrendering just one run on six hits.
Trailing by six in the sixth, Ignatius would rally for four runs off of Shoremen reliever Logan Cherni to make it a two-run game. Nick Longo led off the inning with a walk, then swiped second base and scored on a throwing error to ignite the Ignatius offense. Jake Kucia then singled home a run followed by a Sam Fuller two-run double to cap off the scoring for the Wildcats.
Leading by two, Avon Lake put the game into the hands of sophomore reliever James O’Connor, who was making his second appearance for the Varsity team. O’Connor delivered in a big spot, shutting down the Ignatius sixth-inning rally and returning in the seventh to close out the game retiring all four batters he faced.
University School 4, Gilmour Academy 0
In Friday’s Hardball Classic nightcap, Gilmour Academy and University School faced off under the lights of Progressive Field. With school out for the weekend, students from both schools were out in full force to support their teams, lining the home and visiting dugouts creating a playoff-like atmosphere for the players.
Pitching dominated the first two innings, as starters Brandon Jaces and Chandler Waszak traded zeroes for Gilmour and University respectively. Waszak had the strikeout pitch working, retiring five of his first six outs via the strikeout; Jaces pitched to contact.
In the top of the third, the Preppers struck first, scoring two runs on a well-hit ball to deep left-center field off the bat of Waszak. Andrew Domonkos followed with an RBI single to make it 3-0. In the fifth, Domonkos helped University tack on an insurance run with an RBI double to make it 4-0.
Waszak was a force to be reckoned with on the mound throughout, holding the Lancers to just five hits. In the bottom of the sixth, Waszak faced his biggest test of the game, allowing runners to reach second and third with nobody out. He retired the next three batters without surrendering a run on two groundouts and a strikeout, his 12th of the game. He finished with 13 punchouts.
“This is probably one of the first and only times I’ll be playing in a Major League stadium and to be able to come out here and play as well as we did was awesome,” Waszak said of his team’s performance.
For University Head Coach Ben Boka, the opportunity for his players to play at Progressive Field was special.
“This certainly is a tremendous place to play and these boys really appreciate the opportunity to come out here and play and it really makes them come out and play the best that they can,” said Boka.
Elyria Catholic 12, Highland 2
The Panthers scored nine runs in the third inning on their way to the victory over the Hornets. EC won for the second year in a row in the Hardball Classic; the Panthers beat Berea, 10-0, in last year’s event. Noah Bland had two triples and three RBI.