The Orioles have signed first-round draft pick Jeffrey Hammonds to the largest bonus ever given a college player, the club announced during last night's 6-5 loss to the Minnesota Twins.
The standard, one-year minor-league contract is believed to be worth $1 million, surpassing the $700,000 deal Phil Nevin received from the Houston Astros as the first player taken in the June free-agent draft. Neither side would confirm terms of the contract, however.
Hammonds, a 21-year-old outfielder, was introduced to the crowd of 45,903 at Camden Yards and was treated to a lengthy ovation before the eighth inning began.
For Hammonds, a member of the U.S. Olympic team, it capped off a perfect day. Earlier, he broke out of a hitting slump with a 2-for-4 performance and two stolen bases in the U.S. team's 10-4 victory over Korea.
The signing completed a 12-hour day of negotiations by his brother, Reginald Hammonds, and his legal adviser, Jeff Moorad. Hammonds, from Scotch Plains, N.J., was also accompanied by his mother, Laverne, and his father Ferdinand.
"We were at it a month and a week and we worked diligently to narrow the gap," Moorad said. "The Orioles stepped up in a dramatic way today and got it done."
Frank Robinson, the Orioles' assistant general manager, ushered Hammonds onto the field after the seventh inning.
"It was a nice touch to make the announcement in front of more than 40,000 fans and let him enjoy it," Robinson said. "But the overriding factor is that everyone is satisfied."
Hammonds said the Camden Yards ovation "took my heart away. . . . I'm very fortunate to be in this position."
He said he doesn't have a timetable for reaching the big leagues.
"I have a long way to go," he said. "I'll do what I have to do to get back here," Hammonds, the fourth pick in the June draft, had a year of eligibility left at Stanford, where he hit .380 with 50 RBI and 33 stolen bases last season.
"I can see him here in the not-too-distant future," Robinson said.