For the first time in months, the water-cooler was abuzz.
So, the water-cooler at Zellers is normally empty, and it was actually the back stockroom that was abuzz, but needless to say, there was only one thing anyone at work could talk about Tuesday morning:
The Home Run Derby was won by Canadian Justin Morneau.
People who've never said one word about sports were walking around with their heads held high at the fact that one of our Native Sons took home the closest thing that baseball has to a skills competition.
Side note: The Home Run Derby isn't really a skills competition—it's batting practice, but with an emphasis on the long-ball instead of fundamentals. I'm not complaining (because I do like watching it), and I'm not saying I could do anything remotely close to that (I have one home run in my baseball career—an inside-the-parker), but the people that say this is the equivalent to the NBA or the NHL's Skills comps are nuts—the Home Run Derby is the equivalent to the Slam Dunk Contest and the Breakaway Challenge.
If you wanted a skills competition for baseball you could probably organize some of the following events:
1) Have outfielders line up in deep center, right, and left fields while throwing balls at targets arranged at different distances around the field to test arm strength and accuracy.
2) Have pitchers pitch to a series of targets, and have it so that they have to hit each target with a specified pitch.
3) A Strike-Three off from umpires—if you're an umpire, you'll understand how fun this could be.
Needless to say there has to be more events, but we'll save elaboration for a future column...
Eventually the conversation came around to me, and I was asked about how "big a deal this was for Canada".
I looked my coworkers straight in their eyes and flat-out told them "forget Canada, there was an even bigger deal last night".
There was a bigger deal than a Canadian winning the Home Run Derby.
There was a bigger deal than the other seven competitors in the Home Run Derby last night.
There was the story of human perseverance, endurance, and the determination hidden deep inside us.
That's what the big deal was, but who it was for is a different story.
This was a big deal for Josh Hamilton—the promising baseball star chosen first overall in the 1999 MLB Entry Draft who had begun doing "everything he possibly could to kill himself" in the mid-2000s, and the fact that he worked so hard to bring him back to his dream.
This was a big deal for his grandmother, Mary Holt—the main reason that Hamilton got his life back on track and can say that he's made it, and earned everything he's achieved today.
This was a big deal for his wife Katie and their daughters Julia and Sierra, because the man they loved, the man who cares for them more than anything in the world, was able to show the world he belonged on its grandest stage.
This was a big deal for the Texas Rangers, the Cincinnati Reds, the Chicago Cubs, and the minor-league teams that gave Hamilton his shot, and his opportunity to prove himself once again, after such a torrid ride.
This was a big deal for Clay Counsil, the man who was always there to throw batting practice to his high-school students, and never asked for anything in return—as Hamilton put it: "He probably never got many thank yous."
He got one hell of a thank-you last night—we all did—because this was a big deal for anyone who had lost a little bit of hope in athletes, and assumed that they were all selfish, juiced-up, egotistical freaks.
Josh Hamilton showed us that the people we pay so much money to see are human, and sometimes just as driven to play the games as we are to watch them.
He also proved that raw talent still exists, and that we should never lose hope because the Naturals will always find their way to the top.
Side note: The man takes a drug test three times a week, so yes (for all you doubters out there), he is clean.
The 28 first-round home runs are a side note to what this man accomplished in coming back from the brink. Yankee Stadium chanting his name? That's a dream come true.
To tell Josh Hamilton's story properly, you need to be him—I can't do it, and I'm positive that no one can do the man justice except himself.
To appreciate the man he is and what he went through to get here, and well up with tears at every new revelation that you read about, you just have to be a regular, caring human being.
Sometimes personal biases can take a back seat, sometimes certain dislikes can take a back seat, and now there are times when National pride can take a back seat.
Josh Hamilton's past will never take a back seat—the scars and tattoos will ensure that—but the fact he confronted his demons and overcame them to regain his life and regain what he once lost makes him a bigger winner than anyone last night.
And no one can take that away from him. Ever.