Rhyne Hughes matches Jeffrey Hammonds' quick start in Baltimore

In his first three games with the Orioles, Rhyne Hughes had as many hits with runners in scoring position as the team did in its first three home games of the season.

Hughes tallied RBI singles on April 24, 25, and 27; the Orioles, meanwhile, went 2-for-8, 0-for-6, and 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position from April 9 to 11 against Toronto.

Perhaps it's too soon to coin Hughes the greatest thing since sliced bread. He is, however, the greatest thing since Jeffrey Hammonds - at least in one regard. Hughes is the first Oriole since Hammonds to have two hits and an RBI in each of his first two big league games.

Nevertheless, Hughes' path to the majors was much longer than that of Hammonds.

The Orioles selected Hammonds with the fourth pick in the 1992 amateur draft. Hammonds was the next big thing, a player considered by many to be the best pick in the draft whose speed and power drew comparisons to Rickey Henderson. His $975,000 signing bonus was larger than that of any other player drafted, including Derek Jeter.

Hammonds broke the PAC-10 single season stolen base record during his freshman year at Stanford and was named NCAA Freshman of the Year. He was an All-College World Series selection in 1990 and a two-time All-American ('90 and '92).

The Hammonds hype only grew from there. He batted .414 for the 1992 Olympic team. He homered in his first intrasquad game during spring training and followed that up with a homer in his first Grapefruit League game.

Assistant General Manager Frank Robinson liked what he saw.

"The more I see of this kid, the more I'm impressed with him," Robinson said. "He's made major strides every time I've seen him, and I liked him from the very first time I saw him in college. Without going overboard, I feel like he's going to be an outstanding major league player for a lot of years -- maybe not this year, but not too far in the future."

Overall, Hammonds hit .412 in 11 spring training games before a strained hamstring muscle sent him to Double-A Bowie. Injuries would be a recurring theme throughout his career, so much so that his father counseled him  to stop sacrificing his body so much:  "Stop running into walls, stop sliding on the ground, stop trying to climb walls."

In Bowie, Hammonds batted .300 and played what local sportwriters termed a "dazzling" center field. The team promoted him to Rochester in May, and he promptly homered in his first game with the Red Wings.

On June 25, 1993, Hammonds got the call to the big club. After preaching caution with Hammonds after having rushed pitcher Ben McDonald to the majors, the Orioles promoted him when Brady Anderson went on the disabled list. 

The young outfielder entered as a pinch-hitter for Sherman Obando in the sixth inning of the Orioles 7-6 victory over the Yankees. Hammonds went 2-for-2 with an RBI to help the Orioles rally from a 6-0 deficit for the second time in a week. It was the team's 10 straight win at Camden Yards, and their fifth straight win overall.

One day later, Hammonds, starting in left field, went 2-for-4 with a double and a home run. Final score: Orioles 12 - Yankees 10.

Hammonds hit .305 in 33 major league games in 1993; however, he missed all but two games after Aug. 8 with a neck injury.

He finished sixth in Rookie of the Year voting in 1994. (Remember Bob Hamelin? He got the award that year. Second place went to Manny Ramirez.)

Overall, Hammonds played six seasons in Baltimore and posted a .264 batting average with 51 home runs and 183 RBI. He had a .322 on-base percentage, .446 sluggling percentage, and .767 OPS. He stole 38 bases.

His lone All-Star appearance came in 2000 with the Colorado Rockies.

Hammonds reflected on the ups and downs of his much-hyped career in a 2005 Baltimore Sun article.

"I am not downtrodden," Hammonds said. "I made millions. I played in the biggest ballyards. I played in some of the biggest games. That would be selfish [to be bitter].

"I'm not the norm. And I can say that and say that with pride."

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