Despite growing up just across the Maryland border in North East, Dan Hammer insists he did not always have an eye on the University of Delaware.

“When I was younger, I didn’t even know where the University of Delaware was,” the current Blue Hen baseball associate head coach said.

Hammer grew up with a glove in his hand in the baseball-centric community located 13 miles south of Newark, and following his high school career, he attended a technical school in Baltimore. At that point, he played semi-pro baseball, and told his coach he was planning on attending college full-time.

That coach knew long-time UD head coach Bob Hannah, who led the Blue Hens to 1,053 wins, 12 NCAA regional appearances and 22 conference titles in his 36-year Hall of Fame career. The two set up time to have Hannah watch Hammer play.

It only took Hannah one game to know that Hammer needed to be a Blue Hen.

Hammer’s arrival at UD in 1993 was perfect timing, since the previous year’s team had lost a significant group of players to the draft and graduation, leaving that season’s roster depleted.

“The timing was just right for me. I was able to come right in and jump into a starting role,” he recalls.

As a 23-year old freshman, Hammer was the oldest player on the team and its starting shortstop. A mature leader, he served as team captain during his junior and senior years.

Highlights of Hammer’s college baseball career include UD’s 1996 NAC Championship during his senior year, when the Blue Hens advanced to the NCAA Regional at Wichita State. His play in that tournament earned him a spot on the NCAA Midwest Regional All-Tournament team.  Reaching personal milestones such as surpassing the 200-hit mark and finishing his career as the school’s leader in doubles were also memorable for Hammer, but it is helping other young players reach their own goals that he has found most rewarding.

“Those types of things are pretty memorable but I’m hoping that I coach a lot of players that pass all of those records, and I already have,” Hammer said. “I’m glad that I can get other players to pass those marks."

As the end of his playing career was nearing, Hammer decided he wanted to pursue coaching, so he sent out his resume to over 60 schools across the country.

Lucky for Hammer, his timing was again perfect, as one of UD’s assistant coach roles became vacant, creating a spot for Hammer.

Hannah called Hammer into his office – which happens to be Hammer’s office today – and offered him a part-time coaching position. Hammer was thrilled to serve under his legendary head coach.

“Coach Hannah taught me a lot, and he meant so much to me,” Hammer explains. “Being around him for four years as a player, it was easy to have the upmost respect for him. I entered the University of Delaware as a 23-year-old, and he gave me a chance to play a sport that I had a passion for growing up as a kid. Then getting to coach with him after that… I couldn’t ask for anything better.”

Hammer served four years under Hannah, and following his retirement in 2000, has now been current head coach Jim Sherman’s top aide for 17 years and counting, including the last 12 as associate head coach. It has been a seamless transition.

“’Sherm’ and I are pretty much on the same page with a lot of things when it comes to decisions and what we want to do with the program,” Hammer notes. “We’re in constant dialogue. It’s been a pleasure working with him all these years.”

The feeling is mutual for Sherman.

“Dan was a great player, and now a great coach in our program for over twenty years,” the UD head coach said. “His contributions and influence on our program are instrumental to our success, and he throws one of the best batting practice sessions in the country. He does a great job of working with our hitters and infielders and is appreciated and admired by all our players.

“Dan has been extremely loyal to the University of Delaware and to our program, taking care of many important behind-the-scenes tasks in addition to his great work on the diamond,” Sherman continued. “We’re lucky here at Delaware to have such a great coach, person and teacher on our staff. I’m thankful for all Coach Hammer has done for me and our program.”

A major highlight in Hammer’s coaching career was the Blue Hens’ 2017 CAA Championship run.

“That was a long time coming,” Hammer explains. “We knew back in the early 2000’s when we moved to the CAA that it would be tough. When we were in the other conferences, before moving to the CAA, we were one of the dominant teams, and it was great to finally get that title.”

To make for an even more special year, Hammer was taken by surprise this fall when Sherman informed him about his induction into the UD Athletics Hall of Fame.

“I was finishing skill instruction with a few players at the field and Sherm had come down at the end of that session. The two of us were walking out of the batting cage when he stopped, held his hand out and said ‘Congratulations, hall of famer.’ I was floored.”

The ceremony was a special night for Hammer, especially being inducted with Courtney Batts, who played football at UD at the same time and was Hammer’s teammate on the baseball field as well, and Edgar Johnson, Director of Athletics from 1984 to 2009. It’s been an incredible journey for the guy who grew up just down the road.

“That whole story was not even a thought in my mind 25 years ago,” he said.

A story with no end in sight it appears, as Hammer sees himself as a hometown guy who plans on staying put.

“I plan on staying on board here,” he notes. “I may entertain a different career at some point; I like staying here in athletics but I don’t know if it’ll always be coaching. But I’m very happy where I am right now.”

It’s safe to say the Delaware baseball program feels the same way.