Brian Hamm Named Next Head Coach of Amherst Baseball

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AMHERST, MA – Following an extensive nationwide search, Amherst College has announced Brian Hamm as its baseball program’s next head coach. Hamm coached the Lord Jeffs on an interim basis in 2010, leading the team to a 21-11 (.656) record.

Amherst athletics director Suzanne Coffey was thrilled to make the announcement. “Following a pair of baseball coaching legends as the new head coach requires a deep understanding and respect for the remarkable foundation that is Amherst Baseball,” she said. “Brian Hamm, having spent four years as Bill Thurston’s assistant coach, followed by a very successful year as the interim head coach, is well prepared to continue this legacy.”
 
"I am excited to serve the baseball program and our athletes as the head coach,” Hamm said this morning. “Amherst College is a special place because of the effort that we make striving toward excellence in academics, community engagement, and athletics. I would like to thank the alumni and coaches, my family and my friends for all of their support. I would also like to thank the search committee, Suzanne Coffey and [Dean of the Faculty] Greg Call for this opportunity.”

Amherst’s 21 wins this past spring marked an impressive improvement from the 16-13 record the Lord Jeffs posted in 2009. Despite falling shy of a postseason berth, Hamm led last year’s team to one of the most dominant second-half surges in recent history. The Lord Jeffs won 14 of their final 18 games, marking Amherst’s best record after Apr. 1 since the 1997 squad went 17-4 in April and May.

The 2010 team left its mark on the program’s record book in what was one of the best offensive seasons in program history. The Lord Jeffs set a school record for single-season batting average (.349) thanks to eight players with at least 50 at-bats batting .330 or higher, as Amherst’s lineup was consistently a headache for opposing pitchers.

Hamm’s Lord Jeffs scored 280 runs to tie for the second highest single-season total in program history, crossing the plate at least 10 times in 12 of their games. Notably, Amherst scored 24 runs during an Apr. 2 win over Hamilton College to mark the highest single-game run total since 2006.

Nine players hit at least one home run in 2010 to lead Amherst to the program’s fourth highest single-season total (27). The Jeffs finished the season ranked either first or second in the NESCAC in triples, batting average, slugging percentage, runs per game and home runs per game. Amherst also led the NESCAC West in ERA, opponents’ batting average and saves.

With wins over regionally-ranked Keene State and WPI, as well as an impressive 11-3 victory against 2008 national champion Trinity College, Amherst finished the season among the best teams in New England. Needing a win over WPI in the season finale to keep its playoff hopes alive, Amherst came from behind with a four-run sixth inning to end its season on a five-game winning streak.

“Our baseball program has a rich tradition that has been built by our alumni and lived out by our players and coaches,” added Hamm. “To succeed Bill Thurston, a coach who dedicated his life's work to his players, the betterment of college baseball, and the College itself, is an honor and privilege. I hope that Bill's legacy will continue to live on in the way that our players and coaches wear the Amherst uniform.” 

Brian Merrigan ’11, who has been a regular in the Amherst lineup since 2008, led the student search panel. "I think I speak on behalf of the team when I say we are very excited to hear that Coach Hamm will be returning with us as head coach next year,” he said after being notified of the college’s decision. “Playing under Coach Hamm for the last three years, I have realized how dedicated he is to the Amherst baseball program and how committed he is to each one of his players. He did a great job in his first year as head coach and I am confident he will continue to do a phenomenal job for the duration of his stay at Amherst."

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During the 2010 season, Hamm helped create and maintain a relationship with the W.E.B. Du Bois Academy. Members of the Amherst team traveled to Springfield, Mass., in October to provide instruction to inner-city youth in what was the first meeting of the two groups. The event was modeled after Major League Baseball’s Reviving Baseball in Inner-Cities (RBI) program, a concept that Hamm wanted to bring to Springfield. In April, children from the Academy came to Amherst to watch the Lord Jeffs take on Springfield College and to have dinner with the team.

Prior to serving as Amherst’s interim head coach, Hamm spent seven years in the NESCAC as an assistant coach after a four-year playing career at Middlebury College. Hamm arrived at Amherst for the 2005-06 academic year and served four years as Thurston’s top assistant. For three years prior to arriving at Amherst he had been the assistant coach at Middlebury, where he graduated in 2002 as a two-sport athlete.

For three years Hamm served as an envoy coach for Major League Baseball, working with amateur and professional teams in Europe. In the summer of 2009 he worked as a roaming instructor for the Dutch and Spanish Baseball Federations, coaching with junior national and national teams and evaluating their development programs. At the 2009 American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA) Convention, MLB honored Hamm with the Julio Puente Envoy Coach Award, which is awarded to the Envoy Coach who most epitomizes excellence in coaching and player development in international baseball.

Hamm has also served as a trainer for the Stanford University-based Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA), as well as an associate director for Be Your Own Coach, an organization that has worked with MLB’s San Francisco Giants and Saint Louis Cardinals.

“I'm thrilled that Brian Hamm will be leading Amherst's baseball program,” said Professor of Jurisprudence and Political Science Austin Sarat, who served on the search committee and is the team’s faculty liaison. “Brian is a wonderful person and a first-rate baseball mind. He approaches coaching as another kind of teaching and is a supremely skilled teacher. Amherst is lucky to have him.”

Coffey also admires Hamm’s teaching skills. “Brian’s ability to draw out the best in our students speaks to the quality of his teaching and his instinctive leadership ability. He simply makes everyone around him better.”

Amherst will return a pair of All-NESCAC selections and eight of its top nine hitters in 2011, as last year’s team featured only three seniors.  “I am excited in anticipation of the coming year,” added Hamm. “Our assistant coaches and our strength coach led the way last year; they are outstanding teachers of the game and our program is so fortunate to have them returning this year. We have a wonderful group of talented and hard-working players returning and an incoming class whose contributions will build on the successes of last year's team."

Hamm will also continue to serve on Amherst's men's soccer staff, with which he has specialized as a goalkeeper coach since 2005. Hamm was a three-year starter in goal for Middlebury, earning both all-conference and all-region honors twice and captaining the team in his senior campaign.