Bears go long on home runs

Baseball: Hammond's Brian Brewer and Jason Maxey are blasting homers in record numbers, and the two are only juniors.

High Schools

May 11, 2000|By Rick Belz | Rick Belz,SUN STAFF

Hammond's Brian Brewer and Jason Maxey rank as the most prolific home run-hitting tandem in state public school history.

One of Maxey's home runs last week cleared a stand of mature trees in right field at Hammond and sailed out of sight. It seemed to defy gravity.

One of Brian Brewer's home runs, off a changeup at Howard, dented the bark on an oak tree 400 feet from home plate. The blast awed spectators.

The duo's power numbers are startling. Even more so considering both players are juniors.

Brewer has homered a county-record 12 times, one shy of tying the state single-season record. "I got stuck on 11 for a while," said Brewer, who is hitting .441. "I was thinking about it too much. Now I'm not worried about it and am more relaxed. If I break it, that's cool. If not, I have next year."

Maxey is hitting .600 with nine homers. But he's hot, having hit five in the past two weeks.

At least one of the duo has homered in 17 of Hammond's 19 games. Three times they've homered in the same game; once, back-to-back.

No wonder Hammond is 15-4 and enjoying its best season since 1991, the only year the Bears played in the state championship game, losing to Northeast-AA.

Centennial coach Mike Lerner pitched for that 1991 Bears team. He said: "You can't walk two guys, so you have to pitch to them, and they're both quality hitters who can beat up on anybody."

Maxey has 23 career homers, a state record eclipsing the old mark of 19 set by Pat Boucher of Severna Park in 1998. Maxey's 114 career RBIs, 45 of them this season, is a state record as well. The old mark was 101 set by Jeremy Kennell of Mt. Savage in 1994. Maxey needs one RBI to tie the state single-season record.

"My goals were 15 home runs and 50 RBIs," Maxey said.

Brewer homered in the first six games this season, the fifth longest streak in the nation.

"I just react," Brewer said. "I usually get pitches to hit - fastballs."

They are both physically imposing - built like home run hitters. Brewer is 6-foot-1, 205 pounds and plays guard and linebacker in football. Maxey is 5-11 and 195 pounds and plays quarterback.

They both spent the winter months lifting weights to improve their strength and bat speed. Brewer, a third baseman and relief pitcher, gave up a promising wrestling career to pursue more home runs. He hit six last season.

"It definitely helped that I didn't wrestle," said Brewer, who wrestled at 189 pounds. "I wanted to stay strong for baseball. I didn't want to have to cut weight.

"Columbia Reds hitting coach Paul Donovan worked with my stance, making me stand up straighter. And that increased my power as well."

Brewer and Maxey have lots in common. They were team co-MVPs last season when Brewer batted .530 and was 7-2 with two saves as a relief pitcher, and Maxey batted .550 with 11 home runs.

In addition to both playing football, they've played on the same summer baseball teams for seven years. They both like country music and listen to the same CD before games.

One difference is that Maxey bats left and Brewer right.

Hammond coach Bob Maxey, Jason's father, said: "I call them my Mantle/Maris combination. They've carried a big load. Brian has the perfect third baseman body. Jason has the perfect catching body. Brian wants to go to Maryland because his mom works there. I think he could start there right now and be an impact player.

"One area he can improve on is his fielding. He has a great arm but needs better foot speed for greater range."

Brewer throws 85 mph and is the county's best closer.

Jason Maxey has thrown out 14 of 18 base stealers and picked nine runners off base, teaming with Brewer to nab six at third base.

Maxey, who'd like to attend North Carolina, also excels at blocking pitches in the dirt and has the bruises on his arms to prove it. Against Glenelg in a key game he blocked 15 balls.

His father was an outstanding catcher in high school and college and has taught him the mechanics well, Jason said.

"The first time I ever caught I got hit in the face with a bat, but after that things were OK," he said. "I don't have great arm strength, but have learned to get rid of the ball quickly." He's definitely not afraid to throw it.

One of Jason's baseball highlights was hitting six home runs in six games during the Amateur Athletic Union Junior Olympics last summer.

Maxey and Brewer are disappointed about not winning the county title, finishing runner-up to Mount Hebron. They've moved on, however, and are focusing on winning Hammond's first state title.

Of course, they wouldn't mind hitting a few more home runs along the way.

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