Resisting Temptation: Josh Hamilton's Ride To Hell and Back
Resisting temptation is something that requires a strong heart as well as self-discipline. Many normal people are addicted to drugs such as heroin and marijuana. There are many others who are addicted to alcohol, cigarettes, and dosing themselves with other substances that ruin their lives. You get addicted to these substances when you put them into your body. An addiction is something or someone that you crave.
You must fulfill your addiction simply because you come to need something. One of the most heartwarming stories of overcoming addiction is the story of Josh Hamilton. Though it is not a story that happened all that long ago, Hamilton’s tale is a perfect example that everybody makes mistakes.
Born May 20, 1981 in Raleigh, North Carolina, Hamilton grew up with a safe family who had deeply cared for him and nurtured his miraculous talent for the game of baseball. He grew up playing baseball as a young child all the way through college and so many saw a great future in him. In high school, he was the No. 1 player in the country. He had a stellar batting average of .556 and was the projected No. 1 pick in the MLB draft. But that was not all; Hamilton had gone 7-1 that season as a pitcher. Fans were ecstatic about him and the respect level was very high. Hamilton was dedicated to baseball more than anything.
Teammates and coaches referred to him as a "very nice and humble kid." Hamilton was so passionate for baseball that he never bothered to even date in high school. He was seen as the future of baseball and was referred to the "Golden Boy" by everyone around him. Hamilton then signed a $3.96 million signing bonus to join the Tampa Bay Devil Rays' organization after being drafted first overall. For two seasons, he dominated down in the minor league complex and everyone knew that he could be one of the best of his generation. But prior to the 2001 season, Hamilton's life hit a tragic stop sign.
Just as his future was looking bright, it all changed in a matter of seconds, and the news shocked the baseball nation. One sound and peaceful night, Hamilton was just on his way home in his car and out of nowhere, another car struck him and he had sustained several injuries. Hamilton's story would not be of a great whose career was cut short, however; this would not sideline him forever, but he would need time away from the game to heal. With a boatload of time on his hands, Hamilton started making bad choices and giving up on his goal to ever play baseball again. He had joined the wrong group of people who would lead him to nowhere but trouble.
He began hanging out at a tattoo parlor with some new friends he had met. From there, Hamilton started to get all kinds of tattoos—tattoos he didn't even know the meaning of. "Tattoos became drinks. Drinks became powder. Powder became crack," said an anonymous relative of Hamilton. This began to affect his career as Hamilton returned to the Devil Ray's complex, and only played 56 games until he took the rest of the season off do to the personal demons he was facing in his life. He was now seen as the disaster of the organization. People were saying he was a mistake after his 30-game suspension for marijuana use.
From then on, Hamilton missed playing for two seasons (2004-06) As those two years passed, Hamilton had an epiphany. He wanted this addiction to end because he knew this wasn't who he was. "I prayed to be spared another day of guilt and depression and addiction," Hamilton wrote in his book, Beyond Belief: Finding the Strength to Come Back.
"I couldn't continue living the life of a crack addict, and I couldn't stop, either. It was a horrible downward spiral that I had to pull out of, or die. I lay there—in a hot and dirty trailer in the North Carolina countryside, in a stranger's house, in the cab of my pickup—and prayed the Lord would take me away from the nightmare my life had become."
This feeling of addiction could be stopped. He had a loving wife and millions of adoring admirers and fans knowing what could have been. He was not going to let everybody that cared for him down. Hamilton had no problem admitting that he had an addiction. He was embarrassed that this is who he had become, but he just wanted to refurbish his career and his life. He just wanted to move on.
"When I think of those terrible times, there's one memory that stands out. I was walking down the double-yellow of a two-lane country highway outside Raleigh when I woke up out of a trance," said Hamilton, who had been tortured by what he had become. And with a load of determination and a boatload of faith and heart, Hamilton was going to change.
“My wife, Katie, told me this day would come. At my lowest point, about three years ago, when I was wasting away to skin and bones and listening to nobody, she told me I'd be back playing baseball someday. She had no reason to believe in me. “During that time, I did nothing to build my body and everything to destroy it. I'd go five or six months without picking up a ball or swinging a bat. By then, I'd been in rehab five or six times—on my way to eight—and failed to get clean. I was a bad husband and a bad father, and I had no relationship with God. Baseball wasn't even on my mind. "And still Katie (his wife) told me, ‘You're going to be back playing baseball, because there's a bigger plan for you.’ I couldn't even look her in the eye. I said something like, ‘Yeah, yeah, quit talking to me.’”
His family had faith in him, but Hamilton did not have faith in himself. He would go extended periods of time without picking up a ball or going to the batting cages. Hamilton would have rehab sessions six times a week and baseball was not a priority. "I was a bad husband and a bad father, and I had no relationship with God. Baseball wasn't even on my mind." Hamilton then developed a stronger relationship with God. He would dedicate a lot of his time to just praying and hoping that God would help him through this seemingly bottomless pit of disaster which was known as his life. After a series of extended rehabilitation, Hamilton had finally returned to the Tampa Bay organization with a smile on his face as well as teaching everyone else a valuable lesson.
As well as playing baseball, Hamilton dedicated some of his time as a cautionary tale for young players in the organization in the Renegades. "He pointed (the other players) in the right direction. He said, 'Don't make the mistakes I made.' He was so good with all of the young kids," said Rick Zolzer, the Renegades' director of special events. After that season in the minors, it was time for the Rule 5 MLB Draft. Hamilton was drafted third by the Chicago Cubs in 2006, but was traded to the Reds shortly after in exchange for money and other picks. Baseball America called him, "The draft pick of the year." Later in 2007, Hamilton was rehabbing from a knee injury, but his life was getting back on track. The baseball world was so touched and admirable of Hamilton's actions in the past few years. He was ready to show the world what exactly he could do.
That season, Josh earned a spot on the Red's Opening Day Roster was hitting .403 at the end of Spring Training. For the rest of the season, Hamilton touched millions as he received a standing ovation in his first at bat of the season. Baseball itself had been given a gift which was a true story of a comeback kid that had resisted temptation and had overcome odds. Stories like these are so rare these days, making the comeback story was that much more special.
"I'LL NEVER forget Opening Day in Cincinnati,” Hamilton said. “When they called my name during introductions and a sellout crowd stood and cheered, I looked into the stands and saw Katie and our two kids—Sierra, who's nearly 2, and my 6-year-old stepdaughter, Julia—and my parents and Katie's parents. I had to swallow hard to keep from breaking down right there. They were all crying, but I had to at least try to keep it together. "I pinch-hit in the eighth inning of that game against the Cubs, and Lou Piniella decided to make a pitching change before I got to the plate. The crowd stood and cheered me for what seemed like forever. It was the best sound I've ever heard. “When I got into the box, Cubs catcher Michael Barrett looked up at me from his crouch and said, "You deserve it, Josh. Take it all in, brother. I'm happy for you." I lined out to left, but the following week I got my first start and my first hit—a home run."
After winning NL Rookie of the Month in April, Hamilton was considered the frontrunner for the Rookie of the Year Award, but his young season was cut short after going to the DL on two separate occasions in May and June. This hampered any chance he had to win the award. Hamilton accepted it and moved on with his head high, knowing the expectations. Little did Hamilton expect that he would be traded to the Texas Rangers in the offseason of 2007 in exchange for Danny Herrera and Edinson Volquez.
This turned out to be the greatest deal for the Rangers to date as Hamilton was looking to have a great season, and he did. Now off of drinking and drugs since 2005, Hamilton was treated with all the respect in the world now. He knew he was a comeback story and he was going to prove his determination. Though there were tough critics, many would become fans.
"I get a lot of abuse in visiting cities, but it only bothers me when people are vulgar around kids. The rest I can handle. Some of it is even funny. “In St. Louis, I was standing in right field when a fan yelled, 'My name is Josh Hamilton, and I'm a drug addict!' I turned around and looked at him with my palms raised to the sky. 'Tell me something I don't know, dude,' I said. “The whole section started laughing and cheering, and the heckler turned to them and said, 'Did you hear that? He's my new favorite player.' They cheered me from that point on. "I live by a simple philosophy: Nobody can insult me as much as I've insulted myself. I've learned that I have to keep doing the right things and not worry about what people think."
Through his strong comeback in 2008, fans had been on their feet cheering for this kid that could still one day be an all time great. Hamilton steadily improved his workout regimen as well as working very hard on his lifelong rehabilitation. Coaches have been very touched by this man's dedication to only becoming greater. They could go to bed at night knowing that he had given a hard day's work. He would also still be taking drug tests; coaches claimed that he looked forward to them each week. “I think he looks forward to the tests,” said Rangers' coach Johnny Narron. “He knows he's an addict. He knows he has to be accountable. He looks at those tests as a way to reassure people around him who had faith.” And throughout the season, Hamilton had reached milestones.
He was voted to the All Star game as a starting outfielder and when he trotted off the bench for his introduction, fans in Yankee Stadium applauded him, knowing that moment was something special. Also, he made it to the finals of the 2008 Home Run Derby, where he set the record for the most home runs hit in a round (28), surpassing Bobby Abreu's 2005 record (25). Hamilton finished the season with stellar numbers and he was a clubhouse leader for a young Rangers team. He finished up with 32 home runs, 130 runs batted in, and batted at an average of .304. He was lastly rewarded a Silver Slugger for batting excellence, as well as finishing seventh in the 2008 AL MVP voting. "I'm proof that hope is never lost."
This quote from Hamilton will hopefully one day be as well known as any other historical quote.
He proved that just when all hope seemingly was lost, he never gave up; he just wanted to restart his life and to play baseball again.
By doing so, he shows us all that hope is never lost unless we give up. No matter how bad life seems, we can overcome all obstacles and achieve our goals.
The truth is that with a lot of heart, faith, and determination, we can accomplish our goals and live our lives to the fullest.
Read his exclusive story on his thought on his life here.
Quotes used are found there.
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