January 16, 2021

Tomorrow. Tomorrow.

2007-02-19-hamilton-mug.jpgUPDATE: 4:37 p.m. As good as promised….even with the out.

Tomorrow is opening day in Cincinnati, in case you didn’t know. So here’s a baseball post.

Sometime tomorrow afternoon, I’m going to tear up at a baseball game. It’s a certainty.

I’m going to tear up because of a moment that is going to happen in Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati, in the opening game between the Reds and the Cubs. (Boooo. Hisss.)

It’s going to happen when a kid named Josh Hamilton comes to the plate. And the whole place is going to go nuts. I won’t be the only one crying.

The short version. In 1999, Josh Hamilton came out of high school with a 95 MPH fastball and five tools that had everyone comparing him to Mickey Mantle and Ken Griffey, Jr. The Tampa Bay Devil Rays, in need of a savior, drafted Hamilton #1 overall in all of baseball.

If you google Hamilton’s name, you will find lots of pictures of him in that Tampa Bay green uniform, looking everything like what was promised.

A bit of success and money affects different people differently. It affected Josh Hamilton badly. Everything started as expected, with the expected trips through the minor leagues. But then, things went terribly wrong.

First an accident. Then alcohol and drugs. The raging, legendary addiction and self-destruction. With $4 million to spend, Hamilton didn’t need to slow down, and he didn’t. He went to the bottom, to the edge and to the wall. Over. And over. And over again.

Beyond family and wife. To the point where anyone who reads the story will wonder how he ever survived to see the light of another day.

But he did. Though the Devil Rays finally stopped waiting and making excuses, and though everyone pointed at him as a morality tale, he survived. Survived to know what he had wasted and thrown away; to know that he was a failure.

He survived. And after relapse after relapse, he found his faith, his family, his church and his sobriety.

Just in time for the Devil Rays to give up and put him in the grab bag that is baseball’s Rule 5 draft. Leftovers. Lost causes. Anyone want to take a chance?

Reds manager Jerry Narron wanted to see what was left. He met with Hamilton, looked at the kid and saw that, despite the mileage and the mistakes, Hamilton the ballplayer had survived. Along the way, he acquired humility, gratitude and maturity. But was it too late?

The Cubs took Hamilton, but the Reds traded for him. All of baseball shook their heads. Another foolish Reds move. Another wreck-storation project. A fool’s errand. Maybe. Maybe not.

Josh Hamilton’s last year in baseball was 17 at-bats in single A, just above rookie league. He’s never seen major league pitching. He’s never had a major league at bat.

This March, he tore up the Grapefruit league. His numbers turned the heads of everyone in the game. His defense was impeccable, even awe-inspiring. His bat was patient. His mistakes were minimal. His arm a cannon.

In fact, the Reds had the best record in the spring leagues till the last day, and much of that could be credited to Josh Hamilton. His journey elevated an entire team. The hope for Hamilton is palpable and intoxicating.

The cheers were for real, and the five-tool player that Tampa Bay drafted seems to still be there. Rough and unproven, but still there.

Reds beat writer Trent Rosencrans said today that Hamilton is trying to hide the excitement, but he can’t. He heard him singing “Tomorrow, tomorrow.”

Tomorrow. Tomorrow. Sometime in the second half of the game, Josh Hamilton, the lost boy, the addict, the throwaway, the failure, the morality tale, will come to the plate for his first major league at bat before 20,000+ baseball fans of every age gathered for the renewal of a constant dream in the midst of our changing, discouraging, cynical world.

He will come to the plate in the Red and White, in a town where baseball is well beyond religion in importance, and little boys, mothers, grandpas and middle aged-guys will point at him. They will point and smile, and some will cry at what they are seeing.

The crowd will give this young man the reward that all little boys dream of when they first take a swing at the ball. His moment in The Show. His day in the bigs.

If you read Hamilton’s story
, you’ll note he is covered with tattoos of all kinds. Prominently featured: the Devil and Jesus Christ.

Whether or not Josh Hamilton ever makes it as a star in the majors, he’s already a success story. He’s an example of redemption, mercy and second chances. We can turn our lives into garbage, but God never sees us that way. What sin and Satan destroy, God resurrects, and sometimes the result is Josh Hamilton.

I’ll tear up when the moment comes and I’m praying he keeps all he’s gained, and that in God’s will, he gains even more of what matters.

And if he hits it over the wall, that will be just fine, too.

God bless you, Josh. Have a great tomorrow.

Comments

  1. tanegeel says

    I’ll be there too, way out at the end of the left field line. I’ll watch for Josh Hamilton; I didn’t know his story before. Yee haw, it’s opening day! Everything is good in the world. Oh yeah, and GO CUBS! (Sorry, Michael)
    -nate

  2. Wow. Lifetime Reds fan here. Thanks for sharing that story.

  3. My brother taught me as a young boy the incredible talent of Pete Rose and I have always claimed the Reds as my team ever since. Then, I met my wife to be and her family grew up just north of Dayton and they were all lifelong Reds fans. I really appreciate you sharing this story!

  4. joe barnes says

    Im a former national champion bodybuilder and former pro wrestler im 26 and Josh Hamilton is my hero. I to feel victim to drugs and lost a great career that didnt see to far away. i went from being the top rated powerlifter in the world at one and time and main eventing in the wrestling world on independt circuit to being homeless and susicde being my only option. Thankfully Jesus spoke to me and my lowest point and changed my ways it is still a daily battle. But when i see the reds play everytime i watch josh hamilton play and makes feel a little better cause i know there is someone out there who beat this problem we have called addicitin. Josh Hamilton is a tru hero

Speak Your Mind

*