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The Los Angeles Times 1997 ALL-VALLEY Baseball Team
| PLAYER OF THE YEAR

Hamill: From Better to Best

June 18, 1997|PETER YOON | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

WEST HILLS — Ryan Hamill just wasn't satisfied.

At this time last year, Hamill--then a junior at Chaminade High--was pondering the recently completed high school baseball season.

He had batted .410 with four home runs and 29 runs batted in, not a bad season, but not enough for Hamill.

"I knew I was a better player than that," Hamill said.

So for 30 hours a week during the off-season, Hamill hit the weight room, the batting cages and practice fields.

This season Hamill led the region with 16 home runs and 54 RBIs in addition to stellar play at catcher. He possessed one of the strongest arms around.

He batted .475 and led the Eagles to the Mission League title and into the Southern Section Division III semifinals.

He is the Times' Valley player of the year.

"I just started setting goals," Hamill said. "I wanted to hit 12 home runs with 50 RBIs and have a .500 batting average. I really beared down and it paid off."

Chaminade was not a favorite to win the Mission League title, let alone stay at the top of The Times' regional poll most of the season.

Hamill's improvement was one of the main reasons for the team's success.

"He was everything to this team," Chaminade Coach Scott Drootin said. "It's hard to say where we would have been without him, but I know this--it would have been impossible to get as far as we did without a guy like him."

Drootin, in his first year at Chaminade, said Hamill's leadership was more important than his tape-measure blasts.

"He didn't carry himself like a high school player," Drootin said. "He's more like a college player. He's a gifted kid."

Hamill said he just did what came naturally to a senior in a year with a new coach.

"I wanted to make the team believe that we could win every game," Hamill said. "And really the only team that beat us is ourselves."

Hamill hoped to be selected in baseball's amateur draft, but when he didn't go in the first five rounds, he decided to honor his commitment to Nevada Las Vegas.

His name never came up in the draft.

"I put the word out that if I couldn't get at least [$250,000] I wouldn't sign," he said. "I don't think I was draftable before this season."

New goals include leading UNLV in homers and making the freshman All-American team.

Drootin believes he shouldn't have any problem completing those missions.

"He can do whatever he wants to do," Drootin said. "He's that kind of kid. Lawyer, doctor, baseball player. I'm sorry I only got to coach him one year, but I'm going to follow his career and hopefully he'll get me some tickets when he comes to town."

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