A daily accumulation of history and present as I follow the 2011 year through the baseball season and reflect on the glories and disappointments of the greatest game on Earth.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Josh Hamilton

After being named the first pick of the first round in 1999, the sky was the limit for Hamilton as he looked to the future and how he would be developing into the star that the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, who had still not been exorcised, had needed to move forward to the future. Behind him in the 2nd round was Carl Crawford. On the free agent front were players like Wade Boggs, Fred McGriff, and Jose Canseco. Wilson Alvarez offered hope that he could return to the form that he hoped he contained when they signed him the previous year and some guy named Rolando Arrojo was a runner up for the Rookie of the Year award.
With a lot of gambles and a lot of youth in the American League East, the Devil Rays hoped to build as they improved and drew fans to Tropicana Stadium. Much was made for the hope of their youth, especially Hamilton, and who knew? Perhaps this would be a quick turn around, like the other Florida team who went from non existent to world champions in their 5th season.
However, Hamilton found other things to make his life go... like the heart racing pleasures and pains of crack cocaine.
Not listening to Whitney Houston about how crack was whack, Hamilton took his life to "strange places" and "bad decisions."
After wandering in and out of crackhouses and through the middle of a highway in a drug dependent trance, Hamilton recovered in what he termed a "God thing." Proof that there is always hope at the bottom of the barrel, bottle, syringe, and spoon, Hamilton moved forward with life and gave it another go after the Devil Rays jettisoned him to the Cubs in the 2006 Rule 5 draft. Like a house made over by successful flippers, he was immediately sent packing to the Reds who made him a blossoming star in 2007. A .292 batting average and 19 home runs showed promise and sent the North Carolinian to Arlington as he had a break out season and a hell of a home run derby in front of the world who now praised him as a recovered drug addict with slight emphasis on the Christianity that made it all possible.
And for the purpose of religion and having something to do in front of fans who looked up to him and his story, Hamilton became something with the belief of his wife and child who saw him through eight different stints in rehab. He went on to hit a record 28 home runs in the first round of the 2008 home run derby at Yankee Stadium with the help of a grandmother who took his grunged-out drug-addled self in when he came to her door in 2005 as a barely unrecognizable body.
Proof that dreams come true, but that it's not always easy to move straight through as he relapsed into alcoholic partying time and injuries, but 2010 was back to form as he won the A.L. MVP Award despite MORE injuries that kept him from playing the full season. Still, he hit 32 home runs, 100 RBIs, and .356 over a season that consisted of 518 at bats. Even more so, his OPS was 1.044, which is hellacious - even in Texas.
This took him and his team to the World Series via the Yankees and his former team that he never quite made it to, the revamped Rays who had now been in the playoffs twice.
In thoughts of what could have been and of keeping Hamilton straight, there were many, but the Rangers kept their star in line with modified celebrations of ginger ale instead of champagne.
And here is another place where we hope and wish for the best as Hamilton needs to keep clean and stop partying the life of a dumb jock / ex addict. There is more glory in Cooperstown than up against the ass of a trashy waitress or doing shots off another woman's chest while his supportive wife sits at home. This is not to say that he's a bad person. We all slip and do stupid stuff; it's just that most of us can't hit a major league curve ball while carrying the hopes of this feel good second chance nation of ours to post season glory.

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