ON A 40-DEGREE day in April while a cruel and relentless wind pummels your body, perhaps the most uncomfortable position on the baseball field is that of the catcher.
Sure, maybe your body temperature is helped because you're always involved in the action, but then again - you're always involved in the action.
And, the last thing any catcher wants, cold day or hot, is to take a foul ball in a place no foul ball is meant to travel.
Chris Hammerstein, a converted infielder/pitcher for Franklin Towne Charter, might have questioned why he agreed to switch positions after a foul tip hit him in the groin yesterday against Northeast High.
"In these conditions it's pretty hard [to be a catcher]," he said, "especially getting hit by so many ground balls in the dirt. Sometimes you just can't handle them, but sometimes you can handle every one of them."
One in particular got away in the sixth with his team ahead, 7-0, en route to a 9-0 Public League Division A victory. He was wearing a protective cup, but it was rendered useless because of the angle at which the foul ball hit the ground and then ricocheted upward.
"Ooph," he groaned with a smile postgame. "Agonizing."
At the time, he fell to the ground on his hands and knees, where he stayed for several minutes. He stood for a moment, but went right back down. The home plate umpire, coach Chris Lauber and his teammates urged him to take his time.
"I was thinking about if I was gonna be able to have kids or not," he joked. "I wasn't sure. I was thinking through names and I kinda figured it's probably not going to happen now because that was a pretty bad shot. But, I think I'm alright now."
After a few warm-up tosses, Hammerstein was finally fit for duty. Besides, his batterymate and fellow senior captain, Steve Callahan, was in the middle of a beaut.
Callahan finished with a three-hit shutout (115 pitches) while striking out 10 and navigating around five walks in a regulation seven innings.
"He did really well," Hammerstein said. "He let a couple get away, but he did a phenomenal job. He put everything where it needed to be."
Offensively, the Coyotes (5-0) finished with just four earned runs on 12 hits, because the Vikings (1-4) committed four errors.
Hammerstein went 2-for-4 with two RBI while sophomore Zack Beltran went 3-for-4 with a pair of RBI and two runs scored. Junior Phil Gilchrist also had two hits and scored twice. Fellow captains Brian Bradley and Callahan both doubled.
Robert Perez pitched well for the Vikings, but was undone by fielding errors. He also went the distance, finishing with seven strikeouts and five walks on 154 pitches.
Hammerstein actually came up empty through his first two plate appearances, both with the bases loaded. Eventually, he legged out an infield single in the fourth and knocked in a pair in the top-half of the sixth before he went down in a heap later that inning.
In the middle of last season, the Bridesburg resident was asked to play catcher to help steady an inconsistent rotation. He was never a full-timer, but learning on the fly wasn't a problem. He just loves sports. He also plays basketball, football and soccer and swims (he's also a lifeguard).
And he said the transition behind the plate was smooth.
"I just kind of clicked with all the pitchers," Hammerstein said. "I knew when they were feeling good, I knew what pitches to call, and ever since then, we've been doing really well."
Bloomsburg could be his college destination though his plans aren't finalized. He may also seek a major in sports medicine.
"Just because sports are my life and I've been injured so many times that I know a lot about them and I've always been fascinated by them. I've broken so many bones, one of each, I think."
So, there was never any chance of him asking for a sub in the sixth inning, right?
"No, I just always try to get right back up," he said. "I just try to do what I can for my teammates, stay in and be as beneficial to the game as I can. I don't like to give up, so I just try to dust myself off and keep going."