ATWATER — Atwater resident Jeff Hammar is seen as a role model for youth through his work with the Junior Giants program there.
The 45-year-old resident has been involved with the Junior Giants program since it came to the city in 2001. In the years that followed, city officials say he has remained committed to the program and to the youths who participate in it.
Hammar was inducted to the Junior Giants Hall of Fame in 2010.
Joan Faul, mayor for the city of Atwater, said Hammar is an outstanding community leader. The city is fortunate to have him working in the youth program, she said.
"He puts the youth first in anything that he does, and he goes the extra mile to get it done," she said.
The Junior Giants program is a free noncompetitive baseball program for 5- to 18-year-old boys and girls and is funded through the Giants Community Fund. The program has more than 1,065 teams in 85 leagues in more than 143 cities in California, Oregon and Nevada, according to facts from the program.
The program, which helps the youth develop confidence, also awards incentives to them for reading a certain number of hours, said Hammar, who serves as one of six committee members in the program. He also coaches two teams.
Hammar, a former high school coach, said he first became involved in the program to pay tribute to his father who died of cancer the same year that the Junior Giants came to Atwater. His father coached at the high school level and also coached football at Merced College.
"I wanted to continue on my dad's legacy," he said. "It's my way to pay tribute to him."
Hammar was instrumental in bringing the San Francisco Giants' 2010 and 2012 World Championship trophies to Atwater recently. The trophy tour also made stops in Merced and Los Banos.
During the trophies' visit, several items donated by Sergio Romo were auctioned. The program was able to raise about $3,500 from the auctioned items and around $5,000 including donations, Hammar said.
A few auction items came in late so they will be auctioned off later this year, Hammar said.
The money will be used to rebuild the baseball field at Veteran's Park in Atwater, where the Junior Giants games take place. "We actually had to shut it down during the second half of the season last year due to safety concerns for our players," he said.
Junior Giants in Atwater is one of eight programs overseen by the Atwater Police Activity League, said Joe Hoffar, president and executive director of the league.
"(Hammar) believes strongly in the program," Hoffar said. "He's a very good role model. The kids look up to him."
The program is a good activity for kids in Atwater because it keeps them out of trouble, Hammar said. It's "something positive for the kids that don't have money to play," he added.
Reporter Yesenia Amaro can be reached at (209) 385-2482 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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