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Josh Hamilton

Josh Hamilton

http://www.flickr.com/photos/keithallison/2752004750 Author Keith Allison

Position(s):
CF, LF, OF, RF, DH
Born:
May 21, 1981
Bats:
Left
Throws:
Left
Height:
6' 4"
Weight:
240 lbs
Major League Debut:
4-02-2007 with CIN
Allstar Selections:
2008 SS, 2010 ALCS, 2010 ML, 2010 MVP, 2010 SS

Hamilton started to play baseball from the age of 8 to be like his older brother, growing up in North Carolina. Hamilton is of Scottish and a little English descent.

He was the first overall pick in the 1999 Major League Baseball Draft by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. He was considered a blue chip prospect until injuries and a drug addiction derailed his career in 2001. Prior to the 2007 season, Hamilton was selected by the Chicago Cubs (picking for the Cincinnati Reds) in the Rule 5 Draft. He made his MLB debut in 2007 with the Reds and had a successful rookie season. During the off-season he was traded to the Texas Rangers for Edinson Volquez and Daniel Ray Herrera.

After his torrid start to the 2008 season, Hamilton was named to the American League All Star team, and made the All-Star team the next two seasons as well. He also participated in the Home Run Derby, where he hit a record 28 home runs in the opening round and finished with 35 home runs, which was second-most all-time in derby history. Hamilton won the AL batting title in 2010. On October 22, 2010, Hamilton was selected as MVP of the 2010 ALCS. On November 23, 2010, Hamilton was named the 2010 AL MVP, earning 22 of 28 first-place votes.


Early career

Hamilton was the first overall selection (by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays) in the 1999 Major League Baseball Draft. Shortly after the draft, Hamilton signed with Tampa Bay, receiving a $4 million signing bonus, and joined their minor league system. His first stop in the minors was the rookie level Princeton Devil Rays of the Appalachian League where he played 56 games. He later joined the Hudson Valley Renegades, and helped lead them to their first New York-Penn League championship. After this successful debut in professional baseball, he spent the 2000 season with the Charleston RiverDogs in the South Atlantic League. 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, Hamilton was involved in a car accident. His mother and father were also injured in the accident, but they recuperated from their injuries. The 2001 season also marked the beginning of his drug and alcohol use, and he made his first attempt at rehab. Hamilton only played 45 games in the 2001 season, split between Charleston (A-Ball) and the Orlando Rays, a AA team in the Southern League. Hamilton began the 2002 season with the Bakersfield Blaze, batting .303 with 9 home runs and 44 RBIs in 56 games before his season came to an end due to lingering toe and neck injuries.

At the start of the 2003 season, Hamilton showed up late several times during spring training and was reassigned to the team's minor league camp. He left the team and resurfaced several times, but eventually took the rest of the season off for personal reasons. Hamilton was hoping to return to spring training with the Devil Rays in 2004, but he was suspended 30 days and fined for violating the drug policy put in place by MLB. Because of the length of his suspension, and the terms of the drug policy, Hamilton must have failed two or more drug tests after being put into the program. A "failed" test is one in which there is a positive result for a drug more severe than marijuana. The suspension was increased several times, after repeated violations of the terms of the program.

From 2004 until 2006, Hamilton did not play baseball at all. He made several attempts at rehab, and started off the 2005 season with hopes of being a star major league outfielder. His return to baseball was helped along by former minor league outfielder and manager Roy Silver, who owns a baseball academy in Florida. After hearing about Hamilton's desire to return to baseball, Silver offered the use of his facility if Hamilton agreed to work there. After several months there, Hamilton attempted to play with an independent minor league team, but MLB stepped in and disallowed it.

Hamilton was allowed to work out with the Devil Rays minor league players starting on June 2, 2006. By the end of the month, he was allowed to participate in minor league games. He played 15 games with the Hudson Valley Renegades at the end of the 2006 season. In addition to returning to baseball, Hamilton also served as a cautionary tale for his young teammates with the Renegades.

Rule 5 Draft

Left off the Rays' 40-man roster, Hamilton was selected third overall  in the 2006 Rule 5 Draft by the Chicago Cubs, who immediately traded him to the Cincinnati Reds for $100,000 ($50,000 for his rights, and $50,000 to cover the cost of the Rule 5 selection). In their coverage of the draft, Chris Kline and John Manuel of Baseball America called Hamilton "the biggest name in the Rule 5 in many years."


Cincinnati Reds (2007)


In order to retain the rights to Hamilton, the Reds had to keep him on their Major League 25-man roster for the entire 2007 season. He was one of the Reds' best hitters in spring training, leaving camp with a .403 batting average. The Reds planned to use him as a fourth outfielder. Hamilton started most of the time in center field after an injury to Ryan Freel.

Hamilton made his long-awaited Major League debut on April 2 against the Chicago Cubs in a pinch-hit appearance, receiving a 22-second standing ovation. After he lined out, Hamilton stayed in the game to play left field. As he was waiting to bat, Cubs catcher Michael Barrett said "'You deserve it, Josh. Take it all in, brother. I'm happy for you." He made his first start on April 10 against the Arizona Diamondbacks, batting lead off. In that game, he recorded his first Major League hit, a home run off Edgar Gonzalez. The next night, he hit another. Hamilton was named the National League Rookie of the Month for April.

On May 22, the Reds placed Hamilton on the 15-day disabled list with gastroenteritis; they activated him on June 5 after he batted .333 (8-for-24) with four home runs and six RBI in a six-game Minor League rehabilitation assignment. Hamilton went back on the DL on July 12 with a sprained wrist.

He was shut out in the voting for the Rookie of the Year, which was won by Ryan Braun.

Texas Rangers (2008–present)

On December 21, 2007, the Reds traded Hamilton to the Texas Rangers for Edinson Volquez and Danny Herrera.

2008


In 2008, Hamilton locked up the Rangers starting center fielder job with a stellar spring training. His spring training performance continued into the regular season. Hamilton, usually slotted fourth in the Texas batting order, led all major league players in RBIs for the month of April. He was named American League (AL) Player of the Month after hitting .330 with 32 RBIs during the month. Hamilton then went on to win player of the month for the second straight month in May, becoming the first AL player in baseball history to be awarded Player of the Month for the first two months of the season. Hamilton was featured on the cover of the June 2, 2008 issue of Sports Illustrated, in a story chronicling his comeback. On July 9, 2008, Hamilton hit the first walk-off home run of his career, against Francisco Rodríguez.

Fans selected Hamilton as one of the starting outfielders for the AL at the MLB All Star Game at Yankee Stadium. He finished first in voting among outfielders. He was one of seven first-time starters in the game. Along with Kosuke Fukudome, Geovany Soto, and Ryan Braun, he was one of four who had made their MLB debut in 2007 or 2008. He was selected to participate in the 2008 Major League Baseball Home Run Derby the evening before the game. Hamilton selected 71-year-old Clay Council to throw to him during the Derby. Council  was a volunteer who threw batting practice for him as a child in Raleigh, North Carolina. In the first round of the event Hamilton hit 28 home runs, breaking the single-round record of 24 set by Bobby Abreu in 2005. Hamilton ended up hitting the most total home runs in the contest with 35, but lost in the final round to Justin Morneau, as the scores were reset. His record-setting first round included 13 straight home runs at one point, and 3 that went further than 500 feet (150 m). His longest home run was 518 feet. In 2006, when Hamilton was trying to get back into baseball, he had a dream in which he participated in a Home Run Derby at Yankee Stadium, but he could not remember how many home runs he had hit. After the Derby, Hamilton said: "This was like living the dream out, because like I've said, I didn't know the ending to that dream."

On August 17, he was intentionally walked with the bases loaded against the Rays in the bottom of the ninth, with the Rays leading 7–3, to bring Marlon Byrd to the plate. The Rays went on to win the game 7–4. Hamilton thus became the sixth player in history to receive an intentional walk with the bases loaded. Joe Maddon said after the game, "We didn't want Hamilton to hit a home run. He's got 28, and Marlon Byrd's got 8." Hamilton finished seventh in the balloting for AL MVP, behind Dustin Pedroia, Justin Morneau, Kevin Youkilis, Joe Mauer, Carlos Quentin, and Francisco Rodríguez.


2009

"Josh Hamilton is the best baseball player to ever walk the planet."
— Ian Kinsler, Rangers second baseman

In spring training, Hamilton led all players in RBIs, with 27, and total bases, with 59, in 81 at bats. He hit a 460 ft (140 m) home run into the right field home run porch off Angels reliever Shane Loux in the bottom of the eighth inning on May 15 in Arlington. Then, in the same series against the Angels, on May 17 Hamilton leaped at the wall in center field and slammed into it, robbing Howie Kendrick of a possible home run.

Hamilton spent a portion of 2009 on the disabled list, with a bruised rib cage and an abdominal strain. After visiting doctors in Philadelphia on June 8, 2009, they found a slight abdominal tear, and he underwent a successful surgical operation to repair it the next day. He was expected to be out 4–6 weeks.

Though injured, he was selected by fan voting to play in the 2009 All-Star game, where he was joined by teammates Michael Young and Nelson Cruz. Hamilton finished batting .268 with 10 home runs and 54 RBIs in 2009.

2010: An MVP Season
Hamilton would finish as the AL batting champion, make his third All-Star game, and win the ALCS MVP in 2010

In 2010, Hamilton was moved to left field to put young outfielder Julio Borbon in center field. As in his prior two seasons with the Rangers, Hamilton was again selected to start in the 2010 All-Star Game, as one of six members of the Rangers to represent the franchise at the All-Star Game. Hamilton entered the All-Star Break with a .346 batting average, second in the AL to Miguel Cabrera's .346 batting average.

On August 27, he set a Ranger record with his 24th three-hit game of the season. On September 4, Hamilton bruised his rib cage after making a leaping catch into the outfield wall. He was sidelined for almost a month and returned to play with only three games left in the regular season. He hit a home run the next day.

His talent and popularity have earned him a litany of nicknames including "The Hammer"; "Hambino", referencing to the great Babe Ruth; "The Natural"; and "Hambone" his high school nickname tattooed on his arm.

Hamilton hit for a league-leading .359 average in 2010, winning his first batting title. This was the fourth-best batting average since the end of the 2004 season. He also finished fourth in Major League Baseball in On-Base Percentage (.411), first in Slugging Percentage (.633) and On-Base Plus Slugging (1.044), and tied for tenth in home runs (32), despite missing 29 games due to an injury. He was also one of just 25 players to have 100 RBIs.[41] His performance in 2010 made him a front-runner for the AL MVP Award. Hamilton won the AL Players Choice Award for Outstanding Player in 2010.

On October 22, Hamilton and the Rangers won the 2010 ALCS. It was the first time in Rangers history they had gone to a World Series. To get there they had to beat the defending Champions the New York Yankees. With four home runs, 7 RBIs, and the recipient of several intentional walks in the AL Championship Series win against the Yankees, he won the ALCS MVP Award. On November 23, 2010 Hamilton was voted the AL MVP.

2011

Hamilton avoided arbitration by signing for 2 years and $24 million on February 10th with the Texas Rangers.


Personal life
Family

Hamilton is married to Katie (née Chadwick), the daughter of one of the men (Michael Chadwick) who helped him in his quest to get clean. They started dating in 2002 when Hamilton returned to Raleigh, and married in 2004. Katie has a daughter, Julia, from a previous relationship, and together she and Hamilton have two daughters, Sierra and Michaela Grace.

Recovery
Josh Hamilton

Hamilton's struggles with drugs and alcohol are well documented. He finally got clean after being confronted by his grandmother, Mary Holt. In May 2008 Hamilton said he has not used drugs or alcohol since October 6, 2005.

When giving a brief summary of his recovery, Hamilton says simply: "It's a God thing." He does not shy away from telling his story, speaking to community groups and fans at many functions. He frequently publicly tells stories of how Jesus brought him back from the brink and that faith is what keeps him going. His wife Katie sometimes accompanies him, offering her perspective on his struggles as well.

To comply with the provisions of MLB's drug policy, Hamilton 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."

Hamilton approaches the plate at Rangers home games to the song "Until The Whole World Hears" by Christian group Casting Crowns. In late 2008 Hamilton, among other celebrities such as Brian Welch and Greg Ellis, appeared in testimonial videos called "I Am Second", in which he shares his story of recovering from drug use with the help of his faith in Jesus Christ.

A portion of his return to sobriety was shown on The Learning Channel's reality show "The Real Deal". “A Home Run for Trademark” aired March 31, 2007, and chronicled the renovation of Shoeless Joe Jackson's house during 2006. Richard C. Davis, the owner of Trademark Properties hired Hamilton as the construction foreman. Davis was negotiating the purchase of a minor league baseball team and entertaining the idea of giving him a chance to join the team.

When the Rangers defeated the Tampa Bay Rays in Game 5 of the 2010 American League Division Series, and again when they beat the New York Yankees in Game 6 of the 2010 American League Championship Series, Hamilton's teammates—mindful of his past struggles—chose to celebrate with ginger ale instead of champagne.

Night club incident

Hamilton confirmed he suffered a slip in early 2009. Sports blog Deadspin.com posted photos of Hamilton shirtless in a bar in Tempe, Arizona, with several women. According to reports, witnesses saw Hamilton drinking, heard him asking where he could obtain cocaine, and heard him reveal his plans to go to a strip club later that evening. The photos do not show Hamilton drinking or taking any illegal drugs.

Prior to Hamilton's public admission Johnny Narron, a Rangers special assignment coach and Hamilton's mentor, said he doubted the validity of the photos, telling Deadspin.com, "I'm sure, in the depths of his drug addiction, he was in a lot of bars. He was in and out of bars, crackhouses, everything. There are probably photographs of him in all kinds of places." It was later revealed that Narron had knowledge of Hamilton's slip.

Although this news did not break until August 2009, Hamilton revealed that he had informed his wife, the Texas Rangers, and Major League Baseball the day after the incident occurred. Hamilton called a press conference on August 8 to discuss the photos.[59] Regarding the incident Hamilton said

    Obviously it was one those things that reinforce that I can't have alcohol. I got away from the one thing that kept me on the straight and narrow and that was my relationship with the Lord. That should always come first. Hopefully some good will come out of this. It just crossed my mind that night, 'Can I have a drink?' Obviously I can't and this reinforces that. Since that night, I have not had another thought like that. I know it's something I shouldn't do because it leads to other things.

Hamilton also admitted he had very little memory of the night after getting drunk, and did not know about the contents of the photos. Hamilton did not see the photos after their release, but listened on the phone as his wife described them to him. After the press conference Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said "My first reaction in January was one of concern. Since then I've talked to a lot of people and they say it was significant that he came forward immediately and was honest about it." Major League Baseball tested Hamilton for illegal drugs two days after the incident and he passed that test.

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All-Star, Cincinnati Reds, Josh Hamilton, MVP, Tampa Bay Rays, Texas Rangers

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