February 13, 2007

Non-Baseball Stuff

Joshua Holt Hamilton was born May 21, 1981 in Raleigh, North Carolina. Josh is married to Katie and together they have a 1-year old daughter named Sierra. Katie also has a 5-year old daughter named Julia from a previous relationship.

Hamilton sports no fewer than 26 tattoos, including:

  • a devil on his left arm
  • HAMMER, his nickname, on his right arm
  • blue flames on his forearms
  • tribal symbols that he does not know the meaning of
  • Jesus’s face over a cross on his right leg

Hamilton has yet to appear in a Major League game, but he has been thought very highly of in his pre-major-league career. In 1999, he graduated from Athens Drive High School in Raleigh, where he was a 2-time winner of the North Carolina Gatorade High School Player of the Year Award thaks to a .528 average , 20 stolen bases, 35 RBI and 13 homers. After that season he was named USA Baseball’s Amateur Player of the Year and Baseball America’s High School Player of the Year. Tampa Bay used their first overall draft pick to select Hamilton right out of high school in 1999 for which he received a $3.96 signing bonus.

These days, though, Hamilton is best known for his struggle against drug and alcohol addiction. At the time of this writing, Hamilton had been clean for a scant 16 months, but it sounds miraculous that the guy is even alive. Consider some selected paragraphs from New Life at the Place, an in-depth profile of Hamilton that appeared on washingtonpost.com:

By now, Hamilton ought to be in his fourth or fifth big league season for the Devil Rays, sharing the Tropicana Field outfield with Carl Crawford and Rocco Baldelli. He should be a perennial all-star, an MVP candidate.Instead, he is a Cincinnati Red, and a Hail Mary project at that. After investing eight years and millions of dollars in Hamilton, the Devil Rays decided to leave Hamilton unprotected for December’s Rule 5 draft — in which teams get to pluck away other teams’ unprotected players, their leftovers — figuring no one would take a chance on a 25-year-old outfielder who went four years without playing a game and whose last stop, last summer, was low Class A.

When the Reds snatched up Hamilton, Devil Rays executives expressed mild surprise but little remorse. But way back in June 1999 — when the franchise had passed over Texas high school pitcher Josh Beckett and USC lefty Barry Zito, among others, to make Hamilton the first overall pick — it was a far different story. To go back and read the press clippings now is to marvel at the juxtaposition of youth’s sweet promise and life’s dark reality.

Along those lines:

Every head in the place turns when Josh, tall and tan, built like a Greek god, covered in tattoos, handsome as the day is long, carries the tray of food to his family’s table.This body is what saved his life, more than likely, when Hamilton snorted down enough cocaine to stop an elephant’s heart, or guzzled a 750-ml bottle of Crown Royal each day. Even on those handful of occasions when his sole purpose was to overdose and end the suffering, he couldn’t kill this body.

“There’s no reason I shouldn’t be dead or crippled,” he says. “The fact I still have all my brain function [is amazing]. I did things to where I shouldn’t be right today. It just lets me know there are bigger things out there for me to do.”

You want to root for the kid. You love to see a guy overcome his demons to finally fulfill his potential. On the other hand, there are plenty of guys out there who have worked harder, shown more dedication, and never allowed these demons in in the first place. Hamilton needs to buckle down and prove that he deserves this chance if he’s going to win over the fans of Cincinnati.

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