Elliott: Terriers' Hammill hits well, runs well, acts well

 INF Elijha Hammill (Oakville, Ont.) has shown power from both sides of the plate with the Ontario Terriers. Photo: Marnie Carey

INF Elijha Hammill (Oakville, Ont.) has shown power from both sides of the plate with the Ontario Terriers. Photo: Marnie Carey

By Bob Elliott

Canadian Baseball Network

His voice is smooth, silky and effortless.

Like when he fields ground balls effortlessly in a silky, smooth, manner. 

Or when he turns on a pitch -- from either side of the plate -- with a smooth, effortless swing causing a pitch to clear the fence like a Silkworm missile. 

That’s infielder Elijha Hammill (Oakville, Ont.) of the Ontario Terriers.

You may recognize either him from TV shows (Alphas and Odd Squad).

You may know the voice from commercials (Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation’s CIBC Run for the Cure) or doing voice overs (Ryder on the cartoon series PAW Patrol, plus Little Charmers). 

“A year ago or so I was in elementary school,” Hammill said, “A friend came up and said, ‘Hey my younger brother was watching this show PAW Patrol on TV and this character Ryder ... his voice sounded a lot like you.”

And it was Hammill, who said his mother, Cherise Hammill, suggested acting and he worked his first commercial for CUPE when I he was four years old. 

“I used to have a little bit of fright speaking in front of people, mom thought acting would help me get more comfortable,” Hammill said. “Both (acting, playing ball) are similar. You go out and meet new directors. Acting builds confidence. 

“In baseball you meet coaches and recruiters you have not met before. Just like when you go to the United States to play ball.”

 Elijha Hammill swiped 10 bases at the Sunbelt Sophomore Classic in Oklahoma. Photo: Lucy Wetherall

Elijha Hammill swiped 10 bases at the Sunbelt Sophomore Classic in Oklahoma. Photo: Lucy Wetherall

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The first time Terriers’ founder Danny Thompson saw Hammill at a workout at King’s Christian Collegiate in Oakville last fall, Thompson said to another Terriers coach, “I saw Josh Naylor hit in a home run derby as a bantam and have not seen comparable bat speed since.” 

“I see Elijha as a young man with a very high ceiling with great instincts and huge potential to go on to the next level,” said Thompson. Hammill just finished grade 9, yet he is in Cincinnati playing up one age group for coach Greg O’Halloran.

“We need to move Elijha to our 18u team come August so that he can face better competition,” said Thompson, a former coach with the Canadian Junior National Team. “He needs to face higher velocity fastballs and higher quality secondary pitches.”

Thompson said Hammill would be only the eighth Terrier since 2005 to jump from the Terriers 16u team to the 18U. The others are: Jeff Hunt (Cambridge, Ont.), who was drafted in the 15th round by the Los Angeles Dodgers and played four seasons in the minors; Chad Marshall (Paris, Ont.) who played for the Stoney Brook Seawolves; Joel Stubbs (Woodstock, Ont.) Binghamton Bearcats; Brent Mitchell (Paris, Ont.) South Alabama Jaguars; Billy Martin (Mississauga, Ont.) Canisius Golden Griffins; Nathan Loehle (Cambridge, Ont.) Bellevue Bruins and Ben Abram (Georgetown, Ont.) who is headed to Oklahoma. Hammill is 14 and turns 15 in November.

Cal Quantrill (Port Hope, Ont.), who pitched for the Stanford Cardinal and was given a $3,963,045 signing bonus by the San Diego Padres; Travis Seabrooke (Peterborough, Ont.), pitching at class-A Frederick; Toby Handley (Whitby, Ont.) who played at Stoney Brook and TJ Baker (Acton, Ont.) who played at St. Bonaventure, could have made the jump, but that was when the Terriers introduced a 17U team.

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Hammill played for coach Nicholas Diamandas at the rookie ball and mosquito levels. Then it was on the minor peewee and coach Jeff Lamont. That summer Lamont remembers Hammmill going deep right-handed against the Milton Mets and then next time up hit one even further batting left-handed. That same season Hammill hit a walk-off grand slam to beat North York.which included a trip to Cooperstown’s Field of Dreams.

“Going to Cooperstown my parents told me what big competition it was and we were playing some better teams,” Hammill said. “We played Texas and lost about 13-1. We were 11 and 12 years old. We thought their pitcher was throwing about 75 MPH and from a closer distance, then we were used to. I had a single up the middle, first time up.”

Next, Hammill played for coach Brad Barlow  with the 13U Ontario Blue Jays and last year for coach Stan Wilson with the Brampton bantams. And this winter he has trained and this summer he will play for former major leaguer Greg O’Hallloran with the 16U Terriers.

Twice Hammill won the Scotts Pitch, Hit and Run Canadian championship, earning him a trip to the finals staged during the all-star game. He finished second in Cincinnati in 2015 at Great American Park and then won in San Diego at Peto Park in 2016. 

Tristan Pompey (Mississauga, Ont.), also won the competition once. Pompey, who aattended Kentucky and was drrafted and signed by the Miami Marlins, communicaated with Hammill through Twitter during through both competitions, giving words of encouragement as he went progressed both years. 

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Elijha Hammill earned all-tournament honours in Oklahoma. 

At the sophomore Sunbelt Sophomore Classic in Oklahoma, Hammill earned all-tourney honours under coach Frank Fascia and GM Marc Picard.

“We really struggled against Nebraska, we lost 17-3 ... they went back-to-back off us, one player told me one of their hitters had 61 offers from schools,” Hammill said.

Hammill’s best games were making solid  plays at shortstop and in the outfield against Texas and said he “managed to barrel the ball up,” against Oklahoma.

Hammill hit .357 (5-for-14) with a double, four RBIs and 10 stolen bases. In the five games he had a .979 OPS. 

“He is a very athletic player with the ability to play multiple positions well,” said Picard. “He is also an effective switch hitter who consistently puts the ball in play. Not only is he fast but he runs the bases very well and demonstrates a high baseball IQ.  

“Where he ultimately ends up playing will be determined primarily by his arm strength. He is also an excellent kid.”

Picard was also impressed by SS Austin Gomm (Mississauga, Ont.) of the Terriers, “who has a very quick bat. The ball explodes off his bat, eating up infielders and he has some power, which will no doubt increase as he gets stronger since he is a true 16 year old. He has good arm strength, hands and could probably play third base as he gets bigger and stronger.”

 Elijha Hammill batting right-handed. Photo: Lucy Wetherall. 

Elijha Hammill batting right-handed. Photo: Lucy Wetherall. 

For the past 20 years Picard has been taking teams to the Junior Sunbelt in McAlester, Okla., and the last seven to the sophomore. Since its inception over 200 players who played there have gone on to play in the majors including recently Mookie Betts, Byron Buxton, Brian McCann, Sonny Gray and John Axford (Port Dover, Ont.), a Team Ontario grad.  

Nelson Mercado (Brampton, Ont.) also stood out with the bat hitting .500 (7-for-14) with a double, a triple, six RBIs and 1.314 OPS.  

Twice a Baseeball Canada coach of the year, Picard has won 14 national championships at the bantam, juvenile, junior, Canada Cup and Canada Summer Games levels.

Hammill’s best day on the diamond this season came as the Terriers played the London Badgers. Batting left-handed, he hit a walk-off homer to right field, which landed in  northbound lanes of Neyagawa Blvd. The ball bounced off the road, almost hitting a north bound pickup truck and ending up on the grass on the east side of the street. 

It was a quick turnaround.

“We were short the day before, so I pitched,” Hammill said. “The last pitch I threw, they hit for a single to right to walk me off.”

 Elijha Hammill batting left-handed. Photo: Lucy Wetherall.

Elijha Hammill batting left-handed. Photo: Lucy Wetherall.

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Hammill the actor was nominated for Joey Award -- when he was 11 -- for his appearance in the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation CIBC Run for the Cure TV commercial. He walked the red carpet in Vancouver. One spot shows a close up of Hammill talking about a future daughter who grows up and is diagnosed with breast cancer.

He also has been in TV ads for Home Hardware, Bell, and Tim Hortons to name a few.

What lies ahead? Going to school to play baseball? 

Maybe he could teach TV/Radio commercials and Voiceovers 101?