Born: November 29, 1967
Robert James Hamelin was born November 29, 1967 in Elizabeth and grew up in Randolph. Bob was a fantastic player in youth baseball, but his career really took off after his family moved to California in 1979. He starred in football and baseball for Irvine High School, attracting scouts from both sports.
As a senior in 1986, he was named the conference Defensive Player of the Year. At 6’1” and 225 pounds, he was recruited by Notre Dame as an offensive, but opted to pursue baseball instead. Lou Holtz promised he could pursue both sports, however Bob felt that playing ball year-round on the west coast gave him the best chance at success. He played a half-season of varsity ball for UCLA and was name a freshman All-American, but left school as a sophomore and enrolled in junior college. He continued to play well for Rancho Santiago CC in Santa Ana and also played a few games for Team USA.
In the spring of 1988, the Kansas City Royals drafted Bob in the second round. He worked his way up the system, always hitting well but he slow on the base paths and below average in the field. A back injury also affected his swing. Finally in 1993 Bob had a power surge, hitting 29 homers for Omaha of the Class-AAA American Association. He was rewarded with a cup of coffee by the Royals that season, and then won a regular job in 1994. That year, playing first and DHing, he ranked among the league leaders with 24 home runs, a .599 slugging percentage and a .987 OPS. At season’s end he was named AL Rookie of the Year, finishing far ahead of main contenders Manny Ramirez and Rusty Greer.
The promise of Bob’s first season quickly unraveled. In 1995, his average cratered to .168 and in 1996, he batted just .225. When Bob failed to produce in Spring Training the following year, the Royals released him. Bob caught on with the Tigers and enjoyed something of a resurgence with 18 homers and a .270 average. That earned him a free agent deal with the Brewers in 1998, their first year in the National League. He split first base duties with John Jaha, but did not hit and was cut by Milwaukee after the season.
The 1999 season found Bob back in the Tigers organization as a minor leaguer. Two months into the season, after grounding out, he returned to the dugout and told manager Gene Roof, “I’m done.” After the game he collected his wife, Marie, and one-year-old son and drove back to their home in Kansas City. He later said that the thought of being called up the Tigers didn’t excite him…so he knew it was time to quit baseball.
After steering clear of baseball for several years, Bob returned to the game as a scout. He worked for the Nationals, Blue Jays and Red Sox. Among sports collectors, Bob is known for what may well be the worst baseball card of all time (above).