Friday, February 3, 2012

Why I Root For Josh Hamilton

“The Lord won’t bring up things in the past you’ve asked forgiveness for because He has forgiven those, moved forward. But Satan will remind you of those” -Josh Hamilton

Every once in a while, not very often, you witness something that inspires you. And you come to witness this inspiring event somewhat serendipitously.

I was offered a free ticket to the Home Run Derby at Yankee Stadium. This was 2008, the last year of the "old" Stadium. Normally, I'm the kind of person who likes to go home after work, have a nice dinner,  relax on the couch, and let the magic of the DVR wash over me. I wouldn't even watch the Derby on the tube because it starts too late and takes too long. But this was different. This was the only time it would be held at Yankee Stadium. Ever. That's some pretty serious history.

The ceremonies before and even during the contest were once-in-a-lifetime experiences themselves. Reggie Jackson throwing the ceremonial first pitch to Derek Jeter. Even my brother-in-law, the most ardent Yankee hater I know, said he got chills watching it. This event was the beginning of the end of Yankee Stadium, the farewell party long before they pack up the boxes.

The Derby itself was pretty mundane at first. A few players showed flashes. Some floundered. Then, the last of the eight contestants stepped into the left hand batter's box. The same batter's box occupied over the years by such greats as Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle, Bobby Murcer, Don Mattingly, and Paul O'Neill... each of them heroes to his generation of Yankees fans, and beyond.

2008 Derby from
But this player, though, wasn't wearing that recognizable interlocking "NY" emblem on his cap. No pinstripes on his uniform. He is a member of the Texas Rangers, and now he is a legend in Stadium lore.

One by one, Josh Hamilton, a young outfielder whose promise was nearly derailed due to his battles with addiction, lofted majestic blasts into the Bronx night. Moon shots into the bleachers. Screamers into the box seats in right field. Bombs into the upper deck. A bullet that bounced off the mezzanine. At one point, he slugged 13 in a row. Thirteen straight swings resulted in balls that left the park. In fact, two of his home runs almost literally left the park, a feat only the great Mantle came close to accomplishing. I sat there unable to speak, unable to move. I couldn't believe what I was seeing. In all, the man swung 38 times, and 28 of them resulted in a home run. Awesome. Ridiculous. Impossible.

In a Yankee Stadium event devoid of Yankees, we were looking for a hero. Someone to embrace. And as Hamilton sent a screeching line drive the opposite way that dunked just short of the left field seats, ending his turn, the fans gave an ovation worthy of the performance. "HAM-IL-TON, HAM-IL-TON." Over and over, we chanted his name in appreciation of what he had just treated us to, and in recognition of what he has overcome to do it.

That July night in 2008, Josh Hamilton was given the same treatment reserved for Yankees legends. For fan favorites. This is New York. You have to do something special and memorable to impress the people here. Hamilton did it. He inspired me and almost 60,000 others. I'm glad he seized his moment and ran with it, for him. And I'm certainly glad I got off the couch, and was there to witness it.

2010 ALCS from
I've rooted for Josh Hamilton ever since that night. He killed the Yankees in the 2010 American League Championship Series, an MVP performance that carried the Rangers to their first ever World Series. And for the first time I can remember, the irrational fan in me didn't hate the star player on the team that had beaten my team.
Today, I was sad when I heard the news of his relapse. I don't know much if anything about addiction. Nor do I pretend to understand the second-to-second struggles faced by those with addiction.

I'm just a fan of the guy. I'm not someone who idolizes athletes, especially since I know how so many of them behave off the field. But here's a guy who's admitted his mistakes, and is very publicly trying to fix them. For that, I salute him. I root for him. And wish him the best moving forward.

Good fortune, and the cooperation of My amazing Director, also brought me to Yankee Stadium on another historic night. Read about it here.


  1. Chills. Well said my friend. Hope he gets it again. He inspired you and I'm so glad you wrote about it. Really well, too.

  2. Thank you. I added the last bit today obviously. And I would not have been comfortable addressing my feelings on his addiction if you hadn't help me understand it more.

  3. i dont like the yank mees. go mets. and hamilton has some bad ass tattoos. just like spiders from mars.

  4. He hates those tattoos now because they're a reminder of his time using.


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