Today, Josh Hamilton turns 27 today. For those of you who don’t know Josh Hamilton, he is the soon to be All-Star outfielder for the Texas Rangers who is currently leading the American League in RBIs. Now I do not him personally, but I know his incredible story.
Hamilton was selected number one overall by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in the 1999 Major League Baseball draft. He was the first high school player to be drafted number one overall since Alex Rodriguez in 1993. He had all the tools it took to be a superstar – power, speed, good arm, etc. He signed his first professional contract, which included a $3.96 million signing bonus, two days after he was drafted. His parents left packed up, left their home, and traveled with their 18 year old son, the major league baseball player. They were his chaperones for almost two years until a severe car wreck in February 2001 forced them to return home.
For the first time, Hamilton was on his own. He was also injured from the car wreck so he found himself with nothing but time on his hands. He ended up hanging out in tattoo parlors, strip joints, and bars. He quickly morphed into a full-blown alcohol and crack addict. After failing multiple drug tests, he was suspended by Major League Baseball. Josh Hamilton, the 1999 number one draft pick, was completely out of baseball by February 2004.
He tried quitting. He tried rehab. He lasted eight days at the Betty Ford Clinic. At times, he stopped using. That would be shortly followed by moments of rehab. Then on October 5, 2005, Hamilton quit abusing drugs and drinking alcohol. In a July 2007 ESPN.com article, he explains why in his own words…
Within my first week of sobriety in October 2005 — after I showed up at my grandmother’s house in Raleigh in the middle of the night, coming off a crack binge — I had the most haunting dream. I was fighting the devil, an awful-looking thing. I had a stick or a bat or something, and every time I hit the devil, he’d fall and get back up. Over and over I hit him, until I was exhausted and he was still standing.
I woke up in a sweat, as if I’d been truly fighting, and the terror that gripped me makes that dream feel real to this day. I’d been alone for so long, alone with the fears and emotions I worked so hard to kill. I’m not embarrassed to admit that after I woke up that night, I walked down the hall to my grandmother’s room and crawled under the covers with her. The devil stayed out of my dreams for seven months after that. I stayed clean and worked hard and tried to put my marriage and my life back together. I got word in June 2006 that I’d been reinstated by Major League Baseball, and a few weeks afterward, the devil reappeared.
It was the same dream, with an important difference. I would hit him and he would bounce back up, the ugliest and most hideous creature you could imagine. This devil seemed unbeatable; I couldn’t knock him out. But just when I felt like giving up, I felt a presence by my side. I turned my head and saw Jesus, battling alongside me. We kept fighting, and I was filled with strength. The devil didn’t stand a chance.
You can doubt me, but I swear to you I dreamed it. When I woke up, I felt at peace. I wasn’t scared. To me, the lesson was obvious: Alone, I couldn’t win this battle. With Jesus, I couldn’t lose.
Hamilton had his road to Damascas moment. He got a second chance in life. That was shortly following by a second chance in baseball. He was reinstated by Major League Baseball and was signed by the Cincinnati Reds in December 2006. In December 2007 he was traded to the Texas Rangers.
The difference with the Josh Hamilton now from the Josh Hamilton of the past is his priorities. His relationship with God is first, his relationship with his family is second, and baseball is third. Without the first two, baseball is not even in the picture.
Hamilton now has a purpose for life and that is not playing baseball. He can often be found reliving his painful past by giving his testimony in front of churches and youth groups. He is using the worst time of his life to point others to the power of God.
Hamilton’s wife, Katie beautifully describes their situation this way, “God told me he was going to give Josh baseball back, but it wasn’t going to be for baseball. It was going to be for something much bigger. He was going to give Josh a platform to help others. He is the most beautiful choreographer. It’s not by accident that all the things that have happened in our lives have happened.”
I think we can all learn a lot from Josh Hamilton. With God, all things are possible. You are never too far and too messed up to not be forgiven. You can use the darkest moments of your life as a testimony to point others to Jesus.
How did Hamilton change from a chronic drug addict to the starting outfielder on the Texas Rangers? He answers in his own words, “How am I here? I can only shrug and say, ‘It’s a God thing.’ It’s the only possible explanation.”
That’s a professional athlete I want to cheer for.
Happy Birthday Josh.