For Hammel, Mother's Day not enough to celebrate wife
CHICAGO -- They met when he was a Minor Leaguer and she was in college. They've had to relocate after three trades -- two coming in-season -- and four teams. And now they're happy because they've found a home in Chicago.
As far as Jason Hammel is concerned, Mother's Day should be celebrated at least once a week because of what his wife, Elissa, has done to make home so special and help him focus on baseball.
"I honestly think there's not enough Mother's Days in the year," Hammel said. "There should be a day every week, especially in baseball life.
"I love my mom to death and I'm always going to be in touch with her and I want her to live to be 500 so I die before she does," Hammel said. "That feeling carries on with Elissa. She's the mother of my children and we've shared this whole journey together, and I wouldn't have picked anybody else to do it with me."
Jason and Elissa met in St. Petersburg in 2006, when he was with the Rays and she was a student at Eckerd College. It didn't take long for the two to connect, and before he left to play for Durham that year, Jason had the "talk" about what to expect. He wouldn't be around much because of the time commitment and travel involved with baseball. She'd have to trust him. The foundation of their relationship would be tested. He was honest. The two were married in 2009.
"She is special, and she is the woman I knew from the get go who I knew would be the one," Hammel said.
Baseball players wives don't spend all day being pampered at the spa or shopping on Michigan Avenue.
"What they have to go through, you wouldn't sign up for," Hammel said. "It's all painted as glitz and glam -- 'wife to big league ballplayer,' and all they see are dollar signs and flying private jets. It's not like that.
"In my career, I've played for four different teams, been traded three times," he said. "The wives are left with your life because as soon as you're traded, the team you've been traded to expects you to be there the next day. It's a thankless job. We see it, but nobody else sees it that way.
"They're flying commercially, we're all flying charter planes, and they're carrying two kids, luggage, car seats," he said. "They're single mothers nine months of the year. It's tough, it's very tough."
Son Beckett was born on Sept. 2, 2011. Daughter Colby arrived last Sept. 19, although she had to travel a bit before her arrival. Hammel began the 2014 season with the Cubs but was traded in early July to the Athletics.
"It was a shock last year," Hammel said of the trade. "As much as we knew it was coming, the timing of it was brutal."
Jason jokes that when it was just the two of them, he and Elissa slept late and life was laid back. Now, with two kids, it's crazy.
"Now we're realizing that when you have kids, you don't get sleep," said Jason, who has both of his children's names stitched on his glove. "Now that we found Chicago, and there's so many different and wonderful things we can do, we're excited."
Which brings us back to their new home.
"We fell in love with the energy of the city and how friendly everyone we met has been," Elissa said. "For Jason and I, family comes first, and being in this city we get that sense of community. It has felt like the right place since we arrived. We both feel lucky to be with an organization that makes families a priority, and truly cares about the players lives outside of the ballpark, that has made being here extremely desirable for us."
That's why Hammel lobbied his agent to see if he could rejoin the Cubs after being dealt last summer.
"I wanted to go back as soon as I was traded," Jason said. "You don't see that too often. The fact that she loved it here, I was like, 'Geez, this is perfect.'"
They bought a house in Chicago. It's home.
"We wanted to be back here so badly," Elissa said. "We prayed and prayed for it. It still feels a little surreal that we're back, It's exciting, We can't stop smiling. This has definitely been our favorite stop on this baseball ride so far!"
That's a great Mother's Day present.