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Hammock, father bond at 2018 Fantasy Camp

Former D-backs catcher, fan favorite, has opportunity to coach his mentor
MLB.com @SteveGilbertMLB

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- It was time for the rookie participants in the D-backs' 13th annual Fantasy Camp to introduce themselves and Robby Hammock, one of the camp's coaches, was nervous.

The popular former D-backs catcher was sweating out what one of the first-year participants might say.

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- It was time for the rookie participants in the D-backs' 13th annual Fantasy Camp to introduce themselves and Robby Hammock, one of the camp's coaches, was nervous.

The popular former D-backs catcher was sweating out what one of the first-year participants might say.

"It was a little bizarre," Hammock said. "I was on edge at first. Just didn't want him to do something stupid or say something stupid so I prepped him ahead of time. I said, 'You're a rookie; just keep your mouth shut.'"

Hammock need not have worried. His father, Dennis, quickly became a camp favorite thanks to his good nature and humor.

Robby initially broached the idea of attending Fantasy Camp to his dad a year ago, but Dennis, who lives in Buford, Ga., declined. This year, though, he accepted his son's invitation.

"I don't get to spend as much time as I'd like to, with me living in Georgia and him out here, so every moment we have together is a lot of fun," Dennis said. "I thought my fun on a field was over."

Dennis coached a couple of Robby's Little League teams and was always supportive of his son's career. Growing up, Robby watched Dennis, then a police officer, play in softball leagues, but he didn't get to see him on a baseball field until Fantasy Camp.

At the urging of his assistant coach, former big leaguer Mike Morgan, Robby hit the 68-year-old Dennis leadoff in the first game of the week and was rewarded when Dennis smacked four hits.

"He surprised me early in camp," Robby said. "You could see the ability there. I just wish that as a kid he would have gotten the same support that he gave me. Instead he grew up with a tough stepfather who was all about [him] getting a job after school and didn't let him play sports. Then he was drafted into the military and went over to Vietnam at age 19."

Instead of playing, Dennis got to watch his son Robby make it to the Majors with the D-backs in 2003, where he was part of the famed "Baby Backs," a group of rookies who became fan favorites.

Robby's career was derailed by a knee injury he suffered before the 2004 season, but he kept grinding and after he retired following the 2011 season, he became a coach in the Arizona system, quickly rising to the big leagues in 2017 as catching/quality control coach under manager Torey Lovullo.

Lovullo visited Fantasy Camp and told Dennis how much he relies on Robby, and what an important role he plays on his coaching staff.

"What has really made me feel prideful is that all the people here that know him come to me and tell me how nice of a guy he is and how much they like working alongside him," Dennis said. "They tell me what a good person he is, and you know as a parent that means more to me than his accomplishments as a player."

Steve Gilbert has covered the D-backs for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @SteveGilbertMLB.

Arizona Diamondbacks