If you read anything during the softball season, you heard about her exploits.
Game after game Waverly’s Wendi Hammond put on a show.
She dominated to the tune of a .50 ERA this year, striking out more than two batters per inning. She was first-team all-state. She led Waverly to their first sectional title. She was The Daily & Sunday Review All-Region Player of the Year.
So, who better to do a challenge against than the most dominant player around.
Who better to try and hit off of than Wendi Hammond?
There are plenty of challenges where I don’t have high hopes for my own performance.
In this challenge I figured even if I did really well, I could still look silly trying to hit off Hammond.
Instead of one at-bat, I tried two against the Waverly star — because she always throws strikes so one at-bat would literally be three quick strikes.
The result was two more strikeouts for Hammond, who strikes everyone out. However, I did foul off a pitch, and in my mind, that is something to be proud of.
Even making contact off Hammond is a challenge. In the sake of full disclosure I fouled off the pitch by swinging really early and just praying the ball hit the bat, because Hammond throws so hard that anything I could have done would have been dumb luck.
To my defense, Hammond has been pitching for a long time.
“I started when I was probably 6-7, I started really young with my dad pitching,” Hammond said. “I always wanted to be involved in the game and pitching definitely gets you involved.”
To see Hammond now you see one of the most dominant players in New York state.
The thing is, Hammond isn’t one of those players that relied on pure skill. She didn’t walk in as a seventh grader throwing 60 and dominating games.
Hammond is proof of how far hard work and dedication can take you.
“I’d say freshman year I didn’t want it as much as I do now,” Hammond said. “I was young and didn’t really know what I wanted to do with my life and now I just think I understand I want to go play softball and continue my softball career.”
When Hammond was in ninth grade she was good, but not one of the best pitchers in the state good yet. That came with her effort and work to get better year after year.
It’s a lesson that others can learn from watching Hammond develop.
“You definitely can improve,” she said. “Not being the best in ninth grade is what it is, but the hard work that you put in and all the work you do put in helps.”
There is a bit of surprise for Hammond that she’s become this dominant, but she always knew she was putting in the work.
“A little, but then again, no,” she said. “I just understand all the work I put in is paying off, but I understand once I get to college it’s a whole new game and I’ve got to start from ground zero.”
Next year Hammond will play for D1 Albany, and she’s ready to see what she can do, but knows it will be a challenge.
“It’s a whole different game from high school to college, it’s different, I’m just hoping I can go there and play,” Hammond said.
For Hammond the plan will be to pitch, but also play in the outfield, anything to get into games and contribute.
“I want to play both positions, I want to contribute anyway I can so just anything to get me on the field to play,” Hammond said.
When Hammond was in junior high she had to wait her turn.
With Sam Mennig pitching for Waverly the Waverly star was in JV while in junior high, waiting for a chance to pitch varsity.
It’s a different path than many players of her caliber who play on varsity for six years, but Hammond knew she had a great pitcher on varsity and she had to just work hard and be ready when Mennig graduated.
“It was a little different with my role,” Hammond said. “I had Sam Mennig here pitching and I wanted to pitch and I wasn’t at the varsity level in seventh grade. So, I just had to make adjustments and learn to pitch and be ready in ninth grade once she was gone.”
To go from JV in junior high, to one of the best in the state, Hammond knows that work was worth it.
“It’s definitely relieving,” she said. “It shows all the hard work pays off.”
One thing that helped Hammond get to this point was playing travel for the Conklin Raiders, starting when she was 14.
“Playing travel ball and playing with girls from the West Coast and being able to compete with them made me think that (She could play at the D1 level),” Hammond said. “People don’t understand how important travel is. There are people who understand the game, they want to win, they want to be there, they want to go to college. High school is not always like that. You always have that extra boost in travel to get you going.”
For Hammond since she started in high school her velocity and skills as a pitcher have improved.
“It’s at least like 10 miles an hour higher,” said Hammond, who says she throws about 65 miles an hour.
While the speed is nice, it’s not the only thing that matters at the next level.
“You see girls though, some girls in the Women’s College World Series will throw 60 and some will throw 72, it all depends. It’s not always speed, sometimes it’s spin, it just changes for every pitcher.”
For Hammond there has been a lot of work to get stronger this year.
“I really upped my workouts this year,” she said. “I worked out three times a week with Patton Taylor and I was going hard every time with Emma Adams. All the hard work you put in eventually it will pay off.”
And, Hammond has really narrowed her focus this summer as she prepares for college.
“I have really focused on certain things,” she said. “I have tried to limit what I’ve done. And tried to focus on say getting my speed up or working on certain spin so I’d have that when I went to college.”
One challenge in college will be balancing both her time working on hitting and pitching.
“It’s different,” she said. “At practices there will be like infielders and outfielders do this and pitchers do that so it’s different, because you have to balance it out. I love the outfield, and I love hitting so I want to be a part of all of it.”
Hammond just knows it means extra work, that she’s willing to put in.
“You have to put in the extra time, you have to stay late at practice, you have to go in early to practice, you have to put in the extra time,” she said.
And, Hammond knows being both a position player, and a pitcher, gives her and the team more options.
“I know if I can’t pitch I have something to fall back on to get on the field,” she said.