One of the best known names in baseball was in Tyler recently to speak about his life and the troubles he has overcome. Josh Hamilton, who plays left field for the Texas Rangers, came to tell his story at Rose Heights Church on Jan. 31.Hamilton started his career straight out of high school being the first overall pick in the 1999 draft by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. His career with Tampa didn’t last long because he suffered a back injury in 2001 and was placed on the disabled list. During that time, he had a lot of money and nothing to do. So, he became involved with a group of people at a local tattoo parlor in Florida. He began to experiment with drugs and alcohol for the first time, and also began getting tattoos.”One night I went out with the guys and I had my first drink of alcohol and took my first drug in the same night,” said Hamilton.Hamilton got so caught up in the drugs and alcohol that he ended up spending $100,000 on drugs.”My priorities had changed. I was putting drugs and alcohol before everything else,” said Hamilton. Because of his addiction, in 2003 Hamilton was dismissed from the MLB until he could show signs of recovery after failing many drug tests. From 2004-2006 Hamilton did not play baseball at all. He made several attempts at rehab but kept coming back to drugs and alcohol and was having trouble with his marriage to wife; Katie. Hamilton ended up being confronted by his grandmother (Mary Holt) about his abuse after he showed up at her house needing a place to live.”She had told me things that my parents and everyone that loves me had told me before,” said Hamilton. “She said you’re killing yourself. You’re killing us by making us worry. You’re a better person than this, and you can do great things. Hamilton then swore to his grandmother that he would quit.”After hearing it from her, God just really cleared my head and opened up my heart to really hear those things and see the pain that I was causing her and people around me. And that was the realization that I needed to change and do something different and that’s when I re-comitted my life to Christ,” said Hamilton.Hamilton ended up announcing that he was clean and after just eight months from his last drink and dose of drugs, The MLB was so impressed that they invited him to return to the game. Tampa Bay put him through the waivers by allowing anyone to claim him for $20,000. In 2006, Hamilton ended up being snapped up by the Chicago Cubs in the Rule 5 Draft, who prearranged a deal with the Cincinnati Reds allowing them to recruit him. Hamilton’s season with the Reds was cut short with a wrist injury.In 2007, Hamilton was then traded to the Texas Rangers and was having a great season. He was batting .330 with 6 homeruns and 32 RBI’s after just one month, which happened to be his major league best. During the 2008 All-Star break Hamilton surprised fans at Yankee Stadium with a remarkable 28 home runs in the opening round of the Home Run Derby. “I was a nervous wreck for him that whole day. I was praying, God, just let him get one home run,” said Katie.Hamilton finished with 35 home runs, which was the second most all-time in derby history. “I had to give that whole performance to God, I couldn’t have done it without him and I was glad to be able to share Christ with everybody at Yankee Stadium,” said Hamilton.As things started to look good for Hamilton in early 2009, he confirmed he suffered a relapse. Photos of him drinking in a bar with several women were posted on the Internet.
“For three weeks I had stopped praying and spending time with God that I ended up thinking I could have a drink and everything would be fine, but it didn’t work out that way,” said Hamilton.Hamilton ended up telling Katie and the whole Ranger organization what happened. “I was very shocked that this had happened. I ended up going to our pastor and telling him everything Josh had done and asked him what to do, and he said to forgive him,” said Katie. “I called Josh at his grandmother’s house and said, ‘You don’t have to be sorry, you don’t have to apologize, you don’t even have to change your behavior, because you’re getting forgiveness from me.'”Ever since then their marriage has been much stronger and Josh has stayed away from drugs and alcohol. Since this time Hamilton has opened up an organization called Triple Play Ministry where they focus on sports ministry, different baseball camps and youth missions. Hamilton dedicates most of his time to this ministry during the off season.In 2008 they partnered with a group in Africa where they helped save sick children.”We are very proud about our youth missions, we are going to do some stuff in Haiti next week,” said Katie. Now, Hamilton continues to impress fans as he shows off his talent with the Rangers.”I thank God for where he has brought me in life. Without him I probably wouldn’t be here today,” said Hamilton.Coming into the 2010 season Hamilton feels confident about their team.”We have crazy talent this year. And I know that no matter what, we will be better than we were last year,” said Hamilton.