Born: March 5, 1971
Jeffrey Bryan Hammonds was born March 5, 1971 in Plainfield. Jeffrey grew up in Scotch Plains, where he was a standout in youth baseball leagues as a boy, and an excellent student. He attended Scotch Plains – Fanwood High and starred for the Raiders varsity baseball squad—following in the footsteps of his older brother, Reggie, who had graduated from Northwestern and reached Triple-A with the Pirates before an injury ended his career.
Jeffrey was a ninth-round pick of the Toronto Blue Jays in the spring of 1989, but chose instead to get his college degree. A scholarship from Stanford University looked like a smarter play. At Stanford, Jeffrey often overwhelmed the competition, particularly on the base paths. He batted .353 and stole over 100 bases in under 200 college games.
Jeffrey was a two-time All-American at Stanford. He broke the PAC-10 season record for steals and helped Stanford reach the College World Series twice in three seasons. Following his junior season, Jeffrey joined the U.S. Olympic squad. That spring the Orioles made him their first-round pick. He agreed to a $975,000 bonus plus the tuition cost of finishing his degree—and to allow him to play in the Olympics that summer.
Despite the fact Jeffrey did not begin his minor-league career until 1993, he became the first player from the 1992 draft to reach the majors. He needed just over 10 weeks on the farm before the Orioles promoted him. He batted .305 but was nagged by injuries all summer and came to the plate just over 100 times. In 1994, Jeffrey injured his knee but chose to play through the pain instead of undergoing surgery. This turned out to be a grave error. He limped through 1995 and 1996, yo-yoing between the majors and minors. He showed signs of recovery with a strong year in 1997, but a back injury in 1998 convinced Baltimore it was time to move on.
In August 1998, the Orioles traded Jeffrey to the Cincinnati Reds for Willie Greene, another prospect who had turned suspect. Jeffrey had a solid season for the Reds in 1999, batting .279 with 17 homers. Three of those round-trippers came in the same game, a crazy 24–12 victory over the Colorado Rockies. In 2000, Jeffrey found himself in a Rockies uniform and had the finest season of his career. Playing in a great hitter’s park, he batted .335 with 20 home runs and 106 RBIs. His average was the fourth-best in the NL, and he played in his one and only All-Star Game that summer.
Jeffrey’s big year earned him a gigantic free agent contract with the Milwaukee Brewers. A shoulder injury ruined his 2001 and 2002 seasons, and early in 2004, the Brewers released him. He caught on with the Giants, and finished his career as a Washington National. He announced his retirement in June of 2005, choosing to hang up his spikes instead of acceptance a demotion to the minors. After his playing days, Jeffrey did work for the Players Association and got involved in the development of digital media for baseball training.