Behind Enemy Lines: Josh Hamilton

Reaching the mid-season mark, former AL MVP and 5x All-Star Josh Hamilton has yet to prove his “old-ways” in Anaheim. After a blockbuster move was made by the Angles of Anaheim in the 2012 off-season, Josh Hamilton had taken his talents to California to spark an even bigger rivalry with his former team, the Texas Rangers. The Anaheim Angles, a team in 3rd place (9 GB) have jumped the gun heading from last place, to third however, Josh is receiving little to no recognition, batting .230 with 14 homers. Perhaps the 5x All-Star and AL MVP award winner is simply, “in a slump”, but Hamilton is being hit hard with criticism as  he knowns a thing or two about being critiqued. Before we a quick to judge, lets take a look at Josh’s “visit to Hell”.
Joshua Holt Hamilton grew up in the small town of West Raleigh, North Carolina playing ball with his friends and family. Josh was quite the athlete, as he played football, basketball, and baseball. Coached by his father, Tony Hamilton, and Oakland A, Landon Powell’s father, Ronnie, Hamilton was a star on the basketball court, football field, and baseball diamond. As Ronnie recalls, he made a statement about the little eight year-old Pop Warner player. “Josh would average about 30 yards every time he touched the ball. Nobody could  catch him and nobody could tackle him. They either ran him out of bounds or he  scored.” (SI.com) On the basketball court, left-handed “Hambone”, broke apart defenses and was one of the few kids to dunk at a young age. Aside from Hamilton’s abilities on a field or court, Josh showcased his skills on a baseball diamond. Hamilton was an athlete, yes, but beyond that, Hamilton was a “freak of nature”, in a good way that is. Josh developed as a pitcher and occasionally a shortstop. To begin Josh’s journey, his days at the shortstop position were limited. Hamilton had gained such velocity on his throws, that when he fired a ball to first-base, his first-basemen was so scared, that he began to move out the way to prevent himself from becoming injured. Thus, Josh had made the move which positioned him as an outfielder. Along with his experience at the shortstop position, his days as a pitcher were limited as well, well at least in his younger league.Hamilton was pitching to hard, as opposing batters would run out of the batter’s box before Hamilton’s release was reached.  This led to complaints and furthermore an upgrade to the older league. The incredible athlete grew up doing incredible things in an incredible amount of time. Hamilton won Home Run Derby’s, tournaments, accolades and more, which all led up to Hamilton’s high school career.Not-to-mention, Josh was chosen to play baseball, as he spent all of his days smiling and playing the sport he loved, baseball.”It came easy to him” said Ronnie Powell.
Throughout college and high school Josh was a leader, who’s life revolved around baseball. As a junior, senior, etc. Josh’s numbers proved he would be an MLB sensation and everyone would agree on the that, especially Tampa Bay Devil Ray scout, Mark McKnight. Attending Durham Riverside High, Mark came to watch a few games in the spring season of 1999. Mark provided extraordinary notes about Hamilton on his report for Tampa including a 20-80 point scale (Avg. 50) for the Rays to ponder. on this scale, Mark noted, “Hitting ability: 70, Power production: 80, Running speed: 65, Throwing arm: 80, Fielding ability: 70. McKnight had compared this young multi-position player to Ken Griffey Jr. and even Alex Rodriguez and when asked about the markings of ’80′ pn Hamilton’s report, he said, “ ”I had been scouting for nine years and I had never put grades like that on  anybody.” (SI.com) Mark did further exams on Hamilton having to do with Josh, and Mark had noticed Hamilton was not only an excellent ball player, but, “When a light flashed, Hamilton had to press a corresponding button as fast as he  could. Says McKnight, “The optician told me, ‘That guy has the best eyes I’ve  ever tested. His night vision, his depth perception, everything is just off the  charts. He’s got 20-10 vision.’ The only other player I’d ever heard of with  20/10 vision was Ted Williams. I thought, ‘Man, this kid is too good to be  true.’” (SI.com)
Later after Hamilton graduated high school, he directly entered the 1999 Major League Baseball Player Draft. Tampa Bay had the first overall pick in the 1999 drat and it was no shock that the Devil Ray organization was going to draft Hamilton. Going first-overall to the Rays, Tampa Bay also acquired Carl Crawford in that draft. With very high expectations, the USA Baseball Amateur Player of the Year/Baseball America’s High School Player of the Year, Hamilton made his minor-league debut in 2000 and later suffered an injury in the month of August. In the following season, an April motorcycle injury did not help Hamilton one bit. This motorcycle injury placed Hamilton on the DL until the month of June and shortly after returning off the DL, Hamilton had yet another injury, which at this point, was a season-ending injury. Throughout the span of Hamilton’s first three years in the Majors, Josh had one too many injuries which resulted in Hamilton missing a total of 236 games which is almost a season and a half! While Hamilton was missing 236 games, he gained a new group of ‘friends’. His new friends introduced him to a life filled with strip clubs, drugs, alcohol, and tattoos. Hanging with his friends on a daily basis in these Tattoo Parlors caused Hamilton to have over 20 images tattooed on his body, which he regrets, and started his addiction with drugs and drinking. Josh’s attraction for drugs and drinks became more and more heavier as Hamilton was caught drunk at strip clubs and bars and left alone with a “wasted” body. Years later, after testing positive for substance abuse and being suspended, Josh was placed in a program to treat his addiction and substance abuse problem. As Hamilton’s life was on a decline, the word was out the he would be band from the game of baseball due to the fact he had violated the league’s prevent program and substance abuse rules. Being banned was rough on Hamilton. Afterall, he could not play the game he loved, not only that, Josh had been refusing to listen to the assistance he had received from his family. After the banning, Hamilton was determined to put his life back on track and he did exactly what he wanted to do in 2005. Fading away from his old “trouble-making” friends, Hamilton turned to the Lord for help. With the support of his wife, grandmother, and family, Josh managed to find his Lord and ask for help. Surrounded by prayers and the worshiping of his lord, Hamilton teamed up with the good left in him and pulled himself out of his “slump”, guiding his life back on the right path. During Josh’s recovery, he explains his nightmares to the media, “Josh talks of a horrible nightmare during the first week of sobriety in October 2005. He was fighting the devil, a creature that was heart-wrenching to look at.  He would use some type of blunt object to hit the devil, however the devil kept getting back up and he was never able to defeat him. He would wake up in a terror, sweating profusely, and exhausted, as if he was really fighting the devil.”(Bleacherreport.com) A year later after Josh had somewhat “cleaned-up”, Major League Baseball had informed Hamilton that his ban had been lifted and he was eligible to reenter the Majors. Hamilton then later said, “A few weeks later, his nightmare returned. But this time, as Hamilton tells the story, when fighting the devil, there was another fighting beside him, Jesus Christ. Hamilton says that he was filled with the strength of the Lord, and together they defeated the devil.” (Bleacherreport.com) As Hamilton looks back, he has been sober since the scene when he woke up drunk on his grandmother’s doorstep which was in the year of 2005. Hamilton was then acquired in 2006 by the Cincinnati Reds in a Rule Five Draft. Although Hamilton was out of the game for a little while, the same expectations ran high for him as he made the Reds Opening Day roster in 2007 and played for more than half of the season in the outfield for Cincinnati. Even though fans, on the road, would tease Josh or try to get into his head, he tried making the most of it as he knew he would have to deal with it sooner or later. Following up the 2007 season Hamilton had, Cincinnati traded Hamilton in December to Texas for Dominican pitcher, Edison Volquez. Fitting in well for Texas, Hamilton felt at home. His first experience was when he was asked to tell his heart-warming, bounce-back, story. Along with news-reporters, fans, and sports reporters, Josh’s fellow teammates came to listen including, Ian Kinsler and Michael Young. Josh is now tested two to three times during a week to ensure there is no drug abuse occurring. Keeping in mind that just one more positive test can lead to a full ban from baseball, Hamilton is eager for every test because he knows the test will come back negative. Having a huge power-surge in any team’s lineup with a player such as Hamilton is crucial, and Josh has proven that by taking the Rangers to two consecutive World Series (2010-2011) . Aside that, “Hammy” has won an AL MVP award, honored the Rangers 5 times as an All-Star, and has also treated himself to 3 Silver Slugger Awards, 1 AL Batting Champion Award, 1 ALCS MVP Award and 1 AL RBI Champion Award.
Now as an Anaheim Angel, Josh Hamilton looks to help any team he plays for and he holds on to one of the most inspirational stories in sports history. Josh remains to be tested on a weekly schedule and passes his testes every week. Joshua Holt Hamilton still shares his story and talks about it with anybody who asks because he wants people to know that no matter what, there will always hope.

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