Josh Hamilton: The Baseball Star's Rise to Recovery
By Will Dawson and Wes Rickards
The 700 Club
Air Date: November 1, 2010
Texas Rangers slugger Josh Hamilton is one of the most feared hitters in the game… a legitimate home run threat every time he steps to the plate. But like the Yankees legend, Josh’s career on-the-field was nearly overshadowed by his life off of it.
June 2, 1999. The Tampa Bay Devil Rays drafted 18-year-old Josh with the No. 1 overall pick. He was on the fast track to the majors, until a car accident nearly killed him. Sidelined with injuries, Josh passed the time hanging out with new friends at a tattoo parlor.
"I had my first drink of alcohol and did my first line of cocaine in the same night," Josh tells The 700 Club. "I can’t say why I did it other than just curious about both of them."
His curiosity led to addiction. Over the next three years, Josh checked in and out of rehab eight times. Because of baseball’s drug testing policy his career was also in jeopardy. Then, Josh fell in love with Katie, and they married. He cleaned his act up for a while…
"He told me he had just gotten out of rehab, and he was drug-free. He was at that point, and I just figured he’s out of rehab, he’s saying he’s drug-free. He’s gonna stay that way," says Katie.
"I was clean five months when we got married. We got married in November," says Josh. "She got pregnant in December, and I went back out and started using in January ... leaving her to fend for herself basically."
"I was just floored! I just could net even believe it. Our marriage was so completely broken that you couldn’t even see a way to try and fix it, to try and start putting it back together because there was just not a marriage left," remembers Katie.
Josh quit taking drug tests and was suspended from baseball. He and Katie separated. His body was taking a beating from the drugs, and he lost 50 pounds. One night he showed up on his grandmother’s doorstep and asked if she would take him in. She hardly recognized her grandson.
"She knows that I was using and saying to me that she knew what I was doing. She just started crying and said she couldn’t take it anymore, seeing me like that."
Katie constantly worried about Josh. "I don’t even know how he was surviving. He was a skeleton. He didn’t even look like the same person. Just mentally, I felt like he didn’t have any grasp on reality," says Katie.
Josh had given his life to Jesus at age 18, but after he was drafted, baseball became his focus. His grandmother challenged him to surrender to God. Josh began reading the Bible, but his addiction gnawed at him.
"I would be in the word and praying and all of the sudden one day, I would go three or four days without doing it ... and then I’d be back using. So it’s like I knew what would keep me from doing it, but I was setting myself up to do it anyway," says Josh.
Times were tough for Katie.
"I was completely desperate for God," Katie says. "For the first time in my life, I was just desperate for Him. I needed Him. I needed every bit of Him I could get. There was nothing in me that could get me through that time. I would be in my car praying for him, and it was just like I could feel God right there with me just bringing me so much peace and joy in the midst of a complete disaster."
Katie called Josh and told him she believed she’d heard a message from God.
She said, “Josh, I’ve been praying about it, and God’s going to let you back into baseball.”
Josh would say, "Yeah, whatever."
She said, “No, it’s true! I’ve been praying about it, and He laid it on my heart that you were going back to baseball. But it won’t be about baseball. It’s going to be about what He’s brought you from and what He’s brought you through."
Even though Josh laughed at the idea, it encouraged him to continue reading his Bible. Katie continued looking to God.
"God just kept saying, Just wait, just wait, just trust me, and you know when you’re going through turmoil, ‘Wait’ is not really the answer you want to hear, but He just gave me the strength to continue to wait on Him," says Josh.
Katie’s prayers were being answered.
"I was watching Katie and her relationship with God strengthen so much -- her leaning on Him and depending on Him when I was doing that to her," he says. "That started sinking in a month or two after I started getting back together and going back to church again."
Josh and Katie reconciled, and with God’s help gave up drugs and alcohol. Then, Josh was baptized.
"Just watching the transformation that God has made in Josh’s life .. I mean it’s just been so awesome and such a gift from the Lord to see what He’s done in him," says Katie.
After three years away from baseball, the league reinstated Josh Hamilton. In spring training 2007, a shock to the baseball world, the Cincinnati Reds added Josh to their roster. A year later, he was traded to the Rangers, and his career took off. He’s a three-time all-star and is a leading vote-getter for the American League Most Valuable Player.
And these days, he won’t even touch alcohol. When the Rangers clinched a post-season berth this year, Josh stayed away from the team’s champagne celebration.
"People think there are coincidences in life. There are no coincidences when God’s got a plan. It’s nothing I did except try to make the right choices and let God take over from there. There’s one solid and permanent way out of it, and that’s finding the Lord Jesus Christ and accepting Him."
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