Sunday, May 18, 2014 will mark the 10-year anniversary of pitching legend Randy Johnson's perfect game. The Big Unit will return to Chase Field to throw out the first pitch to Robby Hammock, his catcher at the time.
While it was a historic feat for Johnson, it was also a career defining moment for Hammock who spent a 13-year pro career in the minor leagues and saw time with the Arizona Diamondbacks for parts of six seasons.
Hammock is also a Georgia boy through and through. When the Marlins drafted Hammock in the 1995 MLB draft out of high school, he turned them down to go play college ball at the University of Georgia. He signed with the Diamondbacks after being drafted in 1998.
In May 18th, 2004 when the Diamondbacks traveled to Atlanta to play the Braves, Hammock finally got a chance to return to his home state to play a Major League game in front his family and friends. And he went through a lot prior to the game.
He spent most of the 2004 season fighting knee issues to stay on a Major League roster that included a lot of players who, if not for injures, had no business being in the big leagues. His father passed away just a few days prior to his big night. Then of course, was the usual stuff that every player goes through when he returns home.
"That night was hectic," Hammock said. "That's my hometown. I'm scrambling to get passes, tickets for this person, tickets for that person. People wanted to see me."
The Diamondbacks were trying to get a Frank Catalanotto-like edge on their opponents with scouting reports on every opposing hitter every game. Something Hammock, even at a young age, didn't like.
"Scouting reports can overwhelm you with all that info," he said. "It took away my greatest asset, which is instinct."
So after everything that was going on prior to the game, the last thing Hammock needed was more horses in the merry-go-round in his head. So when he walked into his locker an saw the scouting report, he crumbled it up and threw it away. He decided that he was going to go into his sanctuary with a clear mind.
And with Randy Johnson on the mound, who needed a scouting report?
"It was the easiest game I ever caught," Hammock said. "It was just 1-2-3, 1-2-3."
Nobody expected Hammock's first game in his home state to turn into a historic night. Johnson's perfect game was the 17th ever and the first in 14 years.
They also couldn't picked a better time to face the Braves, who was coming off an 18 strikeout debacle at the hands of the Milwaukee Brewers. So these poor suckers had no chance against the fiery fastball and sizzling slider of the Big Unit.
"He was going guys from the first pitch," Hammock said. "Catching Randy was a difference maker for me. I had to be 110% just to survive."
Johnson went on to win 303 games and will be a first-ballot Hall of Famer in 2015 while Hammock is now the manager of the Visalia Rawhide, the Single-A affiliate of the D'backs.
"You catch one perfect game and people think you're a genius," Hammock said humorously.
Just goes to show that gems like perfect games and no-hitters aren't just pitching accomplishments, it's also a fantastic feat for the catcher.