All-Star outfielder for the Texas Rangers
2008 MLB All-Star
Drafted #1 in the 1999 MLB amateur draft by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays
Member of the Cincinnati Reds during the 2007 MLB season
Josh Hamilton's Fight with the Devil
By Terri Simmons
The 700 Club
FALL FROM GLORY
Josh Hamilton was the first player chosen in the first round of the 1999 baseball amateur draft by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. He began his career in the minor leagues. He was known not only for his gargantuan home runs, his speed on the bases and his fielding talent, but also for his caring and humble character.
At the start of his pro career, Hamilton’s parents quit their jobs so they could travel with their son. Prior to the 2001 season, Josh was involved in a car accident. His mother was also injured in the accident, and she went home with her husband to recuperate from her injuries.
Working his way from the minors to the majors, all of the plans for Josh went off the rails in a moment of weakness. Since his first season in the minor leagues was filled with injury, he was home most of the time attempting to rehab. Josh felt alone for the first time in his life – with close to $4 million at his disposal. As a result, Josh started hanging out with the wrong crowd, and soon began experimenting with drugs.
“I had my first drink of alcohol and did my first line of cocaine in the same night,” he said. “I can’t say why I did it, other than just curious about both of them. When I first got into drinking and using drugs, it was because of where I was hanging out, it was whom I was hanging out with. You might not do it at first, but eventually, if you keep hanging around long enough, you're going to start doing what they're doing.”
What followed was a four-year nightmare of drugs and alcohol and estrangement from friends and family. In 2004, Josh was suspended 30 days and fined for violating the drug policy put in place by MLB. He failed the MLB drug test a few more times and after repeated violations, his suspension from MLB was increased. Josh did not play baseball at all from 2004 to 2006. With his world spinning around him, it seemed as if his career and his life were changed forever, but God had a plan bigger than baseball for Josh.
“Not that long ago, there were nights I went to sleep in strange places, praying I wouldn't wake up. After another night of bad decisions, I'd lie down with my heart speeding inside my chest like it was about to burst through the skin. My thinking was clouded, and my talent was one day closer to being totally wasted. I prayed to be spared another day of guilt and depression and addiction. 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,” he told ESPN The Magazine.
“There’s one memory that stands out. I had run out of gas on my way to a drug dealer’s house, and from there I left the truck and started walking. I had taken Klonopin, a prescription anti-anxiety drug, along with whatever else I was using at the time, and the combination had put me over the edge. It’s the perfect example of what I was: a dead man walking.”
TRAGEDY TO TRIUMPH
Josh admits that his addiction to drugs was a humbling experience.
“Getting it under control is even more humbling,” he said. “I got better for one reason: I surrendered. Instead of asking to be bailed out, instead of making deals with God by saying, 'If you get me out of this mess, I'll stop doing what I'm doing,' I asked for help.”
Within Josh's first week of sobriety in October 2005, he showed up at his grandmother's house 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.” Josh awoke in a sweat; the terror he felt from his dream made the dream feel real.
Seven months later, Josh had the same dream; but this time, there was an important difference.
“I would hit him [the devil], and he would bounce back up, the ugliest most hideous creature you could imagine,” he said. “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.”
Josh believed that the lesson he learned through his dream was obvious, “Alone, I couldn't win this battle. With Jesus, I couldn't lose.”
James 4:7 became the Bible verse Josh would memorize and stand on, “Humble yourself before God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.”
“I read that over and over, committing it to memory. I vowed to change, to make every move from here on a positive one. I battled vicious physical cravings – the devil came at me hard – and as soon as I felt one coming on I would repeat the verse,” he said.
After being confronted by his grandmother, Mary Holt, and with his wife's encouragement and walk with Christ, Josh gave his life to the Lord and was baptized.
“Gradually, I made my way back into the world,” he said.
Josh has not used drugs or alcohol since October 6, 2005.
In June of 2006, after Josh had been sober for eight months, MLB allowed him to return to baseball. That December he was the third player chosen in the Rule 5 draft (which prospects that are not protected on team's 40-man rosters can be acquired for $50,000) by the Chicago Cubs as the Rays did not place him on their 40-man roster. Josh was then quickly sold to the Cincinnati Reds for $100,000.
He made his MLB debut in 2007, and had a successful rookie season. He hit .292 with 19 homers. During the offseason, Josh was traded to the Texas Rangers. To go along with the provisions of MLB’s drug policy, Josh provides urine samples for drug testing at least three times per week.
Rangers’ coach Johnny Narron says of the frequent testing: “I think he looks forward to the tests. 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.”
In 2008, Josh locked up the Rangers starting center fielder job with a stellar spring training in which he batted .556 and drove in 13 RBIs in 14 games. After his great start to the 2008 season, he was named to the American League All-Star team.
Fans selected Josh as one of the starting outfielders for the American League for the 2008 MLB All-Star Game at Yankee Stadium. He also participated in the All-Star Home Run Derby, where he hit 28 home runs in the opening round, to break Bobby Abreu’s record of 24 set in 2005. He finished second in the finals to Justin Morneau, but did hit the second most total home runs of any participant with 35, while Bobby Abreu finished with 41.
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