Saturday, February 28, 2015


Baseball is a game we love to play, and for those blessed enough to play it well the sport can be parlayed into a fruitful career venture.  Yet, every once in a while we are reminded that sports are merely sports, and in the overall spectrum of things just a small part of life.

Such has been the case this past week with the news that Josh Hamilton of the Los Angeles Angels admitted to MLB that he suffered a setback in his battle with addictions that have haunted him.  To his credit, Hamilton didn’t wait for a failed test or for a YouTube video to go viral.  Instead, he was one of few and far between that stood up and insisted on being accountable for his actions.  The rumor making its way around social media is that the fallen Angel will be suspended for 25 games.
Even though I am a lifelong, die hard New York Yankees fan, I’ve always admired Hamilton – and not just because he helped me to three fantasy baseball championships. 

I had heard about his early battles with drug and alcohol addiction and how they robbed him of the early part of his career (he was suspended from 2003 – 2005) and watched him hit the ground running upon his return. 

I read how in Texas he surrounded himself with support and turned to his faith in finding a source of strength on a daily basis.  I loved how he played the game – an endless display of wearing his heart on his sleeve in going full tilt down a baseline or laying out to make an otherwise impossible catch.

Many in New York will remember his incredible performance in the home run derby at Yankee Stadium.  In spite of the fact that he wasn’t one of ours, we chanted his name repeatedly as he launched ball after ball deep into the right field seats.  Josh Hamilton was at the peak of his game.
Over the last couple of years Hamilton has battled one injury after another, and as I write this article he is recovering from shoulder surgery.  It is the price a player like Josh must pay simply because of the way he plays – sacrificing the body for the good of reaching base or robbing a hitter of a certain double.

Only, the drawback is that those injuries add up and the body no longer performs the way it once could.  Suddenly the player is a step slower and the batting average drops while opponents’ outs turn into hits.  It weighs on the psyche of someone like Hamilton and obviously opens the door back up to the demons that lie within.
Many may look at Hamilton’s transgressions as just another spoiled, rich athlete who can’t handle his fame.  Only, to me this one is different.  As I pointed out, Hamilton has never shied away from admitting his problems.  He doesn’t hide behind lie after lie like so many former and recent stars do.  He recognizes his weaknesses and genuinely wants to fix them.  Having been a fan of his, I know how deeply he cares for his family and how much he values his faith.

Yes, he has a rich contract, but he’s used his own monies to create things like the Triple Play Ministries Foundation as well as an orphanage in Uganda.  He has a wife and four daughters.  In short, he has a life outside of baseball that is bigger – and frankly more important than – the sport.
In an article by Bob Nightengale of USA Today, Roy Silver – a close friend and mentor of Hamilton’s – says he thinks Josh should retire. 
"It seems like he's struggling with things. When you've been given three, four and five chances, and it's still not working, it's best to say, "This is it.'

"His life isn't over, but his baseball career should be.''

Ultimately, the decision on what happens going forward is all Hamilton’s.  Only he knows what it will take to battle the disease (yes, these addictions to alcohol and cocaine are a disease) during a long baseball season.  It’s not something he’ll need to fight week-to-week.  It’s a moment-by-moment battle that will last the rest of his life and will be littered with temptations every step of the way.  I, for one, would understand if he didn’t want baseball as an added distraction.

The best part of Josh Hamilton is that, unlike others he’s willing to admit that he’s one of us.  He’s human, and has human flaws.  He more than welcomes his accountability for those flaws.   In this day of half-hearted apologies in front of cameras or in the published media, Hamilton instead simply admits to his setbacks and gets to work on correcting them.
Yes, this year I’ll be rooting for my Yankees to get back into the post-season, but I’ll be rooting even harder for Josh Hamilton to get his life back in order.
After all, baseball is just a game that in the context of life is just a small part.


--Steve Skinner, BYB Senior Writer
Twitter: @oswegos1


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