And what made that night all the more special is that I had my Legion ball coach from back home, Clay Council, pitching to me. Still to this day, I shake my head and laugh. I picture Clay and I in the tunnel before the Derby, praying. And it reminds me again, the impact God can have in or at any moment in our lives. You could tell that the fans kind of knew it, too. But by , man, all that would change. And the really cool thing was that nobody would leave the stadium until the very end.
We fed off that energy, and in some cases I feel like we actually took cues from the fans. We started to believe that we could come back from any deficit — that no lead was safe against the Rangers. And that was pretty much the truth. And then, that following year, the World Series we had with St. I mean … you could make a dang movie about those games, with all the twists and turns and ups and downs. Then I take a couple more hacks in the on-deck circle.
A few moments later, I walk up to the plate.
Step into the box. And the very first pitch I see—. I say probably because there are just so many great memories when it comes to me and the Texas Rangers. And with me, that legacy is maybe a bit more layered and complicated than it is with some players. But at the same time, you know what … I also really hope that an even bigger part of the legacy I left with the Rangers has to do with the interactions I had with people while playing this game.
I hope that there are thousands of people all over Texas who will always have a cool memory of talking with Josh Hamilton — just Josh, the person, you know what I mean? Or that something about my story — the good, the bad, whatever it may be — resonated for them and maybe helped them get through some tough times of their own. But I gotta tell you … that stuff never gets old for me.
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And I really believe that those connections, those bonds, they exist to this day because I always made it a point to be real with people. I was never someone who was going to try and put one over on you, or who was looking to cover up or hide my struggles. Throughout my whole career, there was this continual process of going through things and struggling, but at the same time never hiding from the fact that I made my mistakes. I was honest with the team and with the fans, because I thought I owed that to them, no matter what. And, who knows, maybe in some cases I was a little too honest, or said too much.
But at the end of the day, I hope that people saw me as just … a real person, a human being, with his struggles and his challenges like everyone else.
I was just trying to do the best I could and to be honest about what I was going through. There were no takers. That made the next turn of events a little surprising. Tampa Bay had decided to leave him off its man roster, thinking no one would gamble on a player with his past. The team was wrong. Actually, Chicago's move was a pre-arranged deal with the Cincinnati Reds, who needed outfield depth. One of the first things the Reds did was to find Josh an around-the-clock companion to keep him out of trouble. John had once coached Josh in youth-league basketball, and like Josh, he was deeply religious.
As he prepared to take his long-awaited first major league at-bats, against the Cubs of all teams, the fans at Great American Ballpark gave him a long ovation. Take it all in. Josh had his ups and downs during the year, and so did the Reds. By midseason, he had found his groove. After at-bats Josh was hitting close to.
He was, by any measure, an unqualified success. Narron actually moved in with Josh at this point, and they wiled away the hours watching movies and playing video games.
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After the season, the Texas Rangers approached the Reds about Josh. The club had almost made him a Rule 5 pick the previous year, and it still needed a center fielder. The Rangers had scouted Josh throughout ' They were convinced that he had turned the corner. Cincinnati needed pitching badly, and with young center fielder Jay Bruce on the cusp of stardom, Josh was expendable.
His inspiring story made great headlines, and his locker was busy each time the team played in a new city. Sensitive to this situation when he moved onto the Rangers, Josh was incredibly touched when, during his introductory press conference, he noticed team leaders Michael Young, Hank Blalock and Ian Kinsler in the audience. The Rangers did not have much in the pitching department, so they looked to their sluggers to win games.
Josh quickly emerged as the best of the bunch. In spring training, he batted close to. Earlier in the game, he had flashed some leather, sprinting to the track in left-center to make an over-the-shoulder basket catch on a drive off the bat of Brad Wilkerson. After one month, Josh was crushing the ball at a.
Nonetheless, the baseball pundits were near unanimous in their analysis of him at this point: Josh had nowhere to go but down. All he did in May was win his second straight Player of the Month award. On June 1, he was leading the league with 15 homers and 63 RBIs, and was in the thick of the batting race.
He was getting it done in the outfield, too. In a May game against the Mariners, he made a wall-banging, game-saving catch in a 5—2 victory. Josh was crushing the ball from foul pole to foul pole. Next, he electrified the crowd at Yankee Stadium with a performance for the ages in the Home Run Derby. Fans felt like they were the second coming—they just weren't sure if it was of Mickey Mantle or Roy Hobbs. Josh continued to rake through August and September.
He batted. Although the Rangers finished a distant second in the AL West with a 79—83 record, Josh received a slew of MVP votes, finishing seventh in the balloting. T he Rangers were a much improved club. They went and earned a second-place finish in the division—10 games behind the Angels and eight games shy of a Wild Card berth. It might hav e been an even better year had Josh been at percent.
He bruised his ribs in May, and a month later he was diagnosed with an abdominal tear. Josh underwent surgery for this injury and returned to the field in time to participate in the All-Star Game. He was voted into the starting lineup despite more than a month on the DL.
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Josh knocked in a run with a first-inning groundout. Later he watched from the bench as the AL scored a 4—3 comeback victory. His injury showed up most noticeably in his slugging average, which dropped more than points. Also creating a cloud over this lost season was the revelation that, earlier in the year, Josh had gotten drunk in an Arizona bar.
When the news broke, he went public with an apology, adding that he had come clean about this slip in sobriety the next day. He passed a drug test by MLB two days after the incident. For Texas fans, there were two big question entering Would the team go bankrupt? Would Josh stay clean and regain his previous form? The answers to both were affirmative. Their main compeition with Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban. Josh also saw his value rise in At the plate, in the field, on the bases and in the clubhouse, Josh was the embodiment of a winning player.
Heading into the All-Star Game—where he was voted a starter once again—Josh was neck-and-neck with Miguel Cabrera of the Detroit Tigers for the major league batting lead. In July and August, he boosted his average into the stratosphere and was among the league leaders in hits, runs, homers, slugging and on-base percentage, and RBIs. The Rangers, meanwhile, were on pace to win over 90 games in a division where everyone else was struggling to reach.
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The midseason acquisition of Cliff Lee sent a message to the players that the cash-strapped club was aiming for a championship.
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