If Josh Hamilton Can – So Can We! 

How a drunk junkie became baseball’s greatest player 

By Shlomo Maital  

 

   Josh Hamilton..AFTER

 

   Consider Josh Hamilton.  He is a baseball player who plays for the Texas Rangers.  And recently he did something that has happened only 16 times in the history of baseball. He hit four home runs in one game (and one double!).  (Remember, pitchers rarely throw him balls worthy of hitting – but he hits homers anyway).  He may be the best baseball  player alive today.  He is one of the few baseball players intentionally walked – with the bases loaded!  And he has a story.  It is about drugs, alcohol … and redemption.  He is the least likely baseball star in history:

     In the 2001 Hamilton began using drugs and alcohol heavily.   He made his first failed attempt at rehab. Hamilton only played 45 games in the 2001 season.  At the start of the 2003 season, Hamilton showed up late often during spring training and was sent down to the minor leagues . He left the team and eventually took the rest of the season off for personal reasons.   In 2004,  he was suspended 30 days and fined for violating the drug policy. He went back to rehab.  He failed two or more drug tests after being put into the program.   The suspension was increased several times, after repeated violations of the terms of the program.   From 2004 until 2006, Hamilton did not play baseball at all. He made several attempts at rehab, and started off the 2005 season with hopes of being a star major league outfielder. His return to baseball was helped along by former minor league outfielder and manager Roy Silver, who owns a baseball academy in Florida. After hearing about Hamilton’s desire to return to baseball, Silver offered the use of his facility if Hamilton agreed to work there. After several months there, Hamilton attempted to play with an independent minor league team, but Major League Baseball stepped in and disallowed it.  Hamilton was allowed to work out with the Devil Rays minor league players starting on June 2, 2006. By the end of the month, he was allowed to participate in minor league games. He played 15 games with the Hudson Valley Renegades at the end of the 2006 season.  In addition to returning to baseball, Hamilton also served as a cautionary tale for his young teammates with the Renegades.   Hamilton has twice fallen off the wagon.  On August 2009 sports blog Deadspin.com posted photos of Hamilton shirtless in a bar in Tempe, Arizona, with several women. According to reports, witnesses saw Hamilton drinking, heard him asking where he could obtain cocaine, and heard him reveal his plans to go to a strip club later that evening.  And on February 2, 2012   Hamilton suffered a second slip with alcohol. He claims to have had 2 or 3 drinks before inviting his friend and teammate, Ian Kinsler, to talk at the bar.  Hamilton held a press conference on February 3, 2012, to apologize for his actions.    Hamilton provides urine samples for drug testing at least three times per week.   He is a born-again Christian and when his teammates celebrate wins and championships, they drink ginger ale rather than champagne, for his benefit.   He speaks often to young people about the dangers of drugs.

    Hamilton has been dogged by tragedy.  Last July 7, during a home game at Rangers Ballpark, a fan died while catching a foul ball tossed into the stands by Hamilton. The fan, Shannon Stone, leaned over the rail to catch the ball and fell 20 feet behind the scoreboard. He was transported to a hospital, but died on the way.

       On May 21, Hamilton will be 31 years old.  Because of drugs and alcohol, he got a late start, and a rare second (and third) chance.  Let’s wish him well.  Let’s hope he can avoid self-destruction.  He is a gifted athlete;  his skill lies in his ‘fast hands’ – he waits until the last millisecond before swinging, and his bat speed is unprecedented.  Hamilton has gifts given him by God.  He abused them for years.  Someone that talented owes it to the world to continue to thrill and excel.    The next time you feel you need a second, or third, chance, think of Josh Hamilton.  And emulate him.

 

   Josh Hamilton:  BEFORE

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