Super Natural: Josh Hamilton's Comeback
Rock bottom for baseball superstar Josh Hamilton came one night in the fall of 2005, when he woke up in a trailer surrounded by strangers. Confused, lost, and with nowhere to turn, he showed up at his grandmother's door at 2 a.m.
She didn't recognize him. Mary Holt's grandson had been a chiseled athlete, 6-foot-4, 230 pounds, who could hit the ball a mile and run like a gazelle. That night he was down to 180, cheeks sunken, eyes glazed over, his rail-thin body a complete mess.
Josh Hamilton was a junkie. He was bingeing on crack, downing a bottle of whisky every day, and burning through a $4 million signing bonus. Add a few recent suicide attempts, and there really was no tomorrow. Holt began nursing her strung-out grandson back to health, but with an ultimatum: Quit the drugs or move out.
Hamilton, now an All-Star outfielder for the Texas Rangers, has been clean ever since (he must submit to urine tests three times a week), and is arguably the best player in professional baseball.
"It's amazing I'm still alive after all I've done to my body," Hamilton told Christianity Today. "My granny told me during those days that God had something special planned for me, otherwise I would have died."
'I will Never be Normal'
Holt knew Josh was special. Hamilton has heard this his whole life, beginning in Raleigh, North Carolina, when as a 6-year-old, he was outplaying boys twice his age. As a high school senior in 1999, he managed a .556 batting average. The Tampa Bay Devil Rays made him their No. 1 draft pick and gave him that $4 million check before he graduated.
His career has been up and down, mostly because of injuries and battles with drugs and alcohol. But by the summer of 2010, his third with the Rangers, fans were calling him special again: Hamilton had a monster season, batting .359 with 32 home runs and 100 rbis, despite missing 29 games due to injury. He led the Rangers to the World Series (where they lost to San Francisco), and was named the American League Most Valuable Player.
Getting Hamilton to admit he's special is a challenge. When he does, he says it with a touch of self-deprecation, because to Hamilton, "special" cuts two ways.
On one hand, it has made him a superstar. And it's made him rich; in February 2011, he signed a two-year contract extension with the Rangers for $24 million.
But being special also means never being able to carry one penny in his pocket, for fear he'll spend it on alcohol or drugs. It means always having to be protected—from himself—by one or more members of his personal support team every minute he's away from the ballpark. That team includes wife Katie, Rangers special assignment coach (and Bible study partner) Johnny Narron, fellow outfielder (and fellow Christian) David Murphy, and pitcher C. J. Wilson, who also eschews alcohol.
For Hamilton, being special means making sure the minibar is removed and in-room movies turned off before he stays in a hotel. It means having to be far more publicly candid about his sins than he'd like. It means one day having to explain to his three daughters the 26 tattoos—including one of Satan—that cover his impressive body.
And it means never being completely comfortable in social situations, not even in his own locker room, because he is and always will be an addict: one drink, one snort, or one puff away from self-destruction.
"I will never be normal, but I'm okay with that," Hamilton says.
Hamilton says it's all part of his "platform" for reaching people who deal with their own or loved ones' addictions, and for reaching people with the good news of the gospel.