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Josh Hamilton’s Comeback MAG
I wonder what it would feel like to have the opportunity to play baseball in the Major Leagues and blow it by doing something stupid. I don't have a clue, but Josh Hamilton does.
Hamilton was the number-one pick in the 1999 amateur draft. He was the best prospect in the Tampa Bay Devil Rays' eyes. Hamilton had all the talent in the world but threw it away because of drugs and alcohol. Then, against all odds, he made a successful comeback to the Major Leagues and earned an All-Star selection.
In 1999, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays selected Josh Hamilton right out of high school, a 6 foot 4 inch, 235 pound monster from Raleigh, N.C. Scouts had had their eyes on Hamilton since he was in sixth grade.
Hamilton learned when he was young to play the game of baseball with respect. Before every game, he would give his mother and grandmother a kiss. He would even help clean the dugout after each game. Josh had many good role models as a child and was raised in a religious family. So, what went so wrong with this amazing athlete?
The future was bright for the talented Hamilton, but unfortunately he was tempted by drugs and alcohol. Like many drafted baseball players, Hamilton was placed in the Minor Leagues to develop and mature. He lived on his own and battled many injuries during his first season, and he started hanging out with the wrong kind of friends.
So, that first season, Hamilton took his first sip of alcohol and tried cocaine the same night. His friends' influence led Hamilton down the wrong path. Soon, he became an alcoholic and crack addict.
Since baseball has a drug-testing policy, Hamilton was suspended for three years. He had a wife and two children, and he started neglecting them as well. Hamilton checked into rehab, but four days later he resumed his drug habits. It was extremely difficult for him to break these addictions, and it seemed like he wouldn't. The game Hamilton loved, and the game that could have made him millions wasn't even a thought to the young addict. He didn't pick up a baseball or bat for six months while he struggled with his life.
After years of fighting his addictions and attempting to regain his faith, Hamilton did what few thought he could. He made a comeback. He was drafted by the Chicago Cubs, then immediately traded to the Cincinnati Reds. Hamilton had his first MLB season as a rookie at the age of 26. He was finally ready to pursue the career he had begun eight years earlier.
Hamilton's first hit in the Majors was with the Reds, and it was a home run. Throughout the season he would receive support – and criticism. An umpire told him, “Josh, I'm really pulling for you. I've fought some battles myself, and I just want you to know I'm rooting for you.”
One of Hamilton's strengths is that he's able to admit his problems. On the road in St. Louis, a spectator mocked him as he played in right field, yelling, “My name is Josh Hamilton, and I'm a drug addict!” Hamilton turned and said, “Tell me something I don't know, dude.”
After 90 games with the Reds, Hamilton had a .292 average with 19 home runs, which is exceptional for a rookie. In 2007, he was traded to the Texas Rangers where his career would blossom.
In just his second season, Hamilton became an All-Star with his new team. Only the best players, the top 25 from each league, are selected. He also participated in the home run derby, making it to the final round. At the end of the season, Hamilton had a .304 batting average, 32 home runs, and the MLB league-leading RBI of 130. He was not only doing well on the field, but he was setting a good example in his private life. Many people now view him as a role model.
Alcohol and drugs can lead people astray and change their character drastically. With help, support, and faith, Josh Hamilton was able to break his addictions. He fought his way back to the Major Leagues and ultimately became an All-Star. His comeback story is inspirational and unforgettable.