Originally publilshed Aug. 23, 2012.
This summer, Jamon Hammel traded his comfort zone for a strike zone.
Hammel, of Andrews, a senior shortstop for the Huntington University baseball team, departed Andrews over Memorial Day weekend for Niagara Falls, NY, where he played baseball for the Niagara Power of the New York Collegiate Baseball League (NYCBL).
Although the league has produced several current and former Major League Baseball players, Hammel notes the most challenging thing about leaving for Niagara Falls was not playing up to the league's standards. Rather, the most challenging thing was off the field, he says.
"The most challenging (thing) was probably going out of my comfort zone, just going up there and not knowing anybody and having to make connections," he says.
Hammel got connected with the Power through the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA), which the Power is a member of, and for whom Hammel is a student leader at Huntington University. Hammel says the process of joining the team was fairly easy.
"I just had to let my (Huntington University) coach know," he says.
Hammel treated his time playing for the Power as a learning experience, and soaked up knowledge from coaches and teammates whenever he could.
"A lot of my teammates are Division I players from all over the country," he says. "Just being able to learn from those guys and what their schools do was really valuable."
Hammel's expanded knowledge of the game translated to good performance on the field, where he was among the team leaders in batting average for the season at .330.
Playing infield for the Power, Hammel helped the team to the NYCBL Western Division crown. This matched the Power up against the Eastern Division champion Syracuse Jr. Chiefs for the league title, which the Jr. Chiefs took in a three-game series.
Hammel says he not only grew as a player on the field, but also as a person off it.
"One of my goals was to grow spiritually, with it being an FCA team," he says. "We had a lot of opportunities - community outreach and getting involved with churches and just community service groups and just getting out in the community and really developing relationships with people. That went really well. I couldn't have asked for anything more in that area."
Hammel returned home the second week of August. Though leaving his comfort zone and traveling to Niagara Falls was challenging, Hammel says that it was "also the most rewarding thing because I was able to gel with my team and with my host family and the community of Niagara Falls."
"I was able to have a good summer on the field as well as off," he says. "It was a blast."