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All he does is win
by Seth "Soul Man" Ferranti / April 19, 2004

Seth M. Ferranti

Soul Man is the world's leading prison basketball journalist. He also writes for Don Diva, Elemental, Vice and Slam.
If you want the 411 on convicts, street legends, prison gangs, the mafia and life in the belly of the beast, check out gorillaconvict.com/blog
Check out Soul Man's first book Prison Stories and watch out for Prison Basketball, out in March 2007.
You can e-mail him at info@gorillaconvict.com.

Ron Hammond, aka Catch-me-if-you can, is a true baller. As in foot-baIler, b-baller, and soft-baIler. I'm talking thorough. A go-hard, playmaking, multi-sport superstar. Crazy mad skills and iced-out talent. The kid ain't no joke. He's bonafide. Whether it's basketball, football, or softball, Catch-me-if-you-can is legit. He is considered the best all-around athlete on the pound. And by the way, all he does is win championships.

If they had a Bureau of Prisons Sports Hall of Fame, Ron would own it. Can you say 14 championships? In five years? In three sports?

The cat is a living legend in the feds. There was the 2000 A-League, Winter basketball title here at FCI Fort Dix that Catch-me-if-you-can won right off the bus. There was the two summer league and blacktop basketball crowns he took. There was the A-League, fast-pitch softball championship from the summer of 2000. But all that was just Fort Dix glory. And the kid just got here.

In Schuykill, Ron hit the pound in 1996 and won five consecutive A-League basketball championships. He quarterbacked his team to a flag football title, coached a B-league championship, took the A-league softball crown in 1998 with Black Magic, and even added a ping pong championship as icing on the cake. Some cats go their whole bids never winning nothing. This man collects championships like other prisoners collect shots.

Catch-me-if-you-can was born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland. He is straight outta Westport projects, a tough neighborhood in South Baltimore. Life was rough in the hood but Ron comes from a big, close family and tells me how he grew up with his moms and brothers.

As a kid, he says he never played organized sports. He told me, "I had a wrestling coach at Southwestern High School who always told me I was real athletic, but I never took heed to it. I had no idea 'til I got to prison."

Like most cats in the feds, Ron is in on a drug conspiracy charge. He's been down for a minute, six years into a 15-year bid. He says of his charge, "It was something I was into." And like most young black males, he was just trying to survive. The game to him was a way of life, a way to get money. But he was also into other things on the streets. He was instrumental in the running of a rec center for kids in South Baltimore. He helped organize and run the youth basketball leagues and acted as a coach and mentor. "Some things are once in a lifetime," he says of helping out the kids.

Catch-me-if-you-can is a natural leader. A born leader. He comes from a family of leaders. He is polite, soft-spoken, and mild mannered. A kind of ghetto Clark Kent/Superman. There is no showboating to him and he is not prone to boasting. He describes himself as "a loving, caring person who would do anything for anybody no matter what nationality or culture."

A lot of thugs and studio gangstas perpetrate in the feds, but Ron doesn't play that shit. This cat is a straight-up, urban gentlemen, plain and simple. Ain't no fronting to him. He is humble, at ease, and exudes confidence. A solid convict who is self-assured and comfortable with who he is.

But don't get it fucked up. Catch-me-if-you-can is vicious. When he's on the court, the diamond, or inside the huddle he says, "I'm not out there for fun. I'm out there to win." And a betting man will always take Ron's team. Ain't no faking it. The cat has the unbreakable and undeniable spirit of a champion. A true solider who puts in work and will represent. Be it a clutch RBI single, a spectacular late-inning, game-saving catch, a crucial free-throw or steal with time running out, or a last minute TD pass, Ron will come through and insure his team's victory.

His philosophy is, "I'm not gonna stop' til I get the job done." And you better believe it because if you sleep on him, he will bust your ass.

Ron has a lethal combination of speed and grace. He is explosive with a lean build and at 6-foot and 185 pounds, he can overpower you, finesse you, or just flat out beat you with blinding speed. It doesn’t matter what time it is. The cat is all sport. He is dominating. Varsity basketball. All-compound softball. All-star football. Catch-me-if-you-can is a first-round draft pick every time.

"It makes me feel good to win," Ron says. But he admits to feeling "sad in a way that I had to come to prison to find this talent." Coaching-wise, he says he learned a lot from his man Primrose in Schuykill. "He was the only person," Ron says, "that when he spoke, I listened. About all sports.”

Ron's love to compete is deep, too. His brother Troy, who's doing a 20-year bid, told me how one time in Schuykill, Ron was back playing ball three weeks after dislocating his shoulder. Troy laughed as he said Ron "was playing all slumped over, looking like the hunchback of Notre Dame."

When we talk NBA, Ron gives props to AI and Jordan. While tapping his heart, he says of Iverson, "he like me. He never give. He got that diehard." And of Jordan he states, "he's so good that when it comes to a crucial time and the other team know he gonna get the ball, he so bad, you can't stop it."

In September, the FCI Fort Dix rec department had a sports awards ceremony. When I asked Ron what he won, he told me: "I won everything." And that's no idle boast. The man literally won everything. I asked him how his family felt about all the accolades. "They be happy. They proud. They support that," he replied.

It's just hard to believe that this cat had to come to prison to unearth the phenomenal athletic ability that has resided in his body, in his self, this whole time. Catch-me-if-you-can is 31 and won't hit the streets until 2009, way past his prime – athletically speaking.

"I feel wasted," he says. "Terrible. My talent feels wasted." But still he has a bright outlook. Of course he dreams of the pros. A wide receiver in the NFL. A leftfielder in the majors. A two-guard like his man Iverson in the NBA. It all might have been possible but Ron is past all that. He knows it's unachievable now. As for the future he says, "it ain't as far as me. It's more about working with the kids. Helping them."

And with that utterance, Catch-me-if-you-can shows exactly the type of person he is. A true champion with a heart of gold. When I ask him for some closing words or a last remark he tells me, "I hope that people that got talent out there, that they stick with it and don't come in here."

Seth "Soul Man" Ferranti, federal prison number 18205-083, is housed at FCI Loretto. Previously he resided at FCI Fairton, FCI Fort Dix, FCI Beckley and FCI Manchester. He has been a regular contributor to HoopsHype.com since 2003

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