As I sat down comfortably in front of my computer today, I discovered that I was down 7-3 in the championship game of my fantasy baseball league. Despite the mountain I would have to overcome, one of my outfielders provided me with more hope than any other player on my team, Josh Hamilton. Josh Hamilton’s batting line for that day was: 1/4, 2, 1, 4, 0, .250. That one home run meant more then just a measly home run to me. Instead, it meant that I had tied my arch nemesis in the one category I have been losing in all season, home runs and that I was one step closer at taking home the crown.
This got me thinking, what would be going on in baseball, and more importantly on my fantasy team, right now if Josh Hamilton wasn’t Josh Hamilton? What if he never overcame his drug and alcohol addiction? Would the Rangers be the reigning AL Champs? Would they even be a contender this year?
I can almost guarantee you that without the powerful sense of accomplishment and fear Hamilton emits through his violent swings and his numerous tattoos that the Rangers wouldn’t have been a contender last year or this year.
You know every team needs that one guy who can pump everyone up, and that is what Hamilton does. And he doesn’t just do it for the Texas Rangers, he does it for numerous other baseball players and America as a whole. In a sense, the man who roams center field across the street from where “America’s football team” plays is an idol to so many American citizens.
The man was once the star prospect in the Tampa Bay Rays organization. However no matter how hard they tried to protect him from the vils of drugs and alcohol, Hamilton fell so low that he thought he might never play baseball again.
Yesterday, after leading the Rangers to victory, the thought of baseball without Hamilton consumed me. Why is that? Because Hamilton is the epitome of the American dream, and a perfect success story for America’s past time. He sunk so low, yet he was able to re-shape his life, and within a few years, he is leading the Rangers to a second straight AL West title, except this year, I think they will be celebrating a little more than last year.
There isn’t much else to say about this man, because I’m about two years too late. But nevertheless, what hasn’t been said about this fantastic being? A LOT. Whether I talk about his prolific showing in the 2008 home run derby, or his march to the World Series last year with the Rangers, I feel as though thousands of people have beat me to it. So what do I say now? Well here goes.
Put yourself in his shoes last October, walking through San Francisco and seeing numerous bar signs that say “Hamilton drinks here free!” Whether you are currently an alcoholic, or a recovering alcoholic you know that to accomplish what he has in such a short span is almost impossible. This makes his remarkable march for baseball glory even more astonishing. So take a second and think about it, what if he didn’t stop his addiction? Can you imagine baseball without him? Can you imagine the Rangers not winning the ALCS last year? Would the Giants have won it all last year? Who would have won the last home run derby at the house that Ruth built? Most importantly, what would those thousands of stories have been about instead of Josh Hamilton? Only God knows, but I can guarantee you that they wouldn’t be as mind blowing inspirational as Hamilton’s tale. Without his presence in baseball, baseball just wouldn’t be the same.
Last March when I was in Arizona for a Spring Training and he stepped up to the plate the whole stadium suddenly focused on the game. They stopped their side talk and focused on a man that can make history any second. I had never witnessed something like this before. The only other time I have seen someone gain so much attention so quickly was when I saw Sandy Koufax in person. Both of them started off their careers in such bad style that they both almost quit the game entirely. That is what makes them both so amazing. They hit rock bottom and somehow made it to the top of the league in just a few short years.
If 20 years from now Josh Hamilton isn’t consistently in top 10 baseball players of all time lists, I wouldn’t be surprised if he re-entered the game to prove why he should be recognized as one of the best players ever.