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Thursday, September 30, 2010

Cheers to "The Natural"

In today's world it's rare that you hear a feel good story about an athlete that recovered from a troubled beginning to completely turn his life around, but in Texas Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton you find just that. Hamilton has rebounded from drug and alcohol addictions to become a MVP candidate and one of the most inspirational figures in sports.

Hamilton, a Raleigh, NC native, was selected first overall by Tampa Bay back in 1999 right out of high school. Rumor was that the kid had tons of talent and was on the fast track to the Big Leagues. Hamilton shot through the minors before a car accident, injuries, drugs and alcohol caused many issues and derailed his career early on. He was eventually suspended for 30 days in 2004 for violating MLB's drug policy. We're not talking about weed here; major league baseball suspensions usually require that you fail 2 or more drug tests for a substance much stronger than "trees". Hamilton's suspension repeated got increased and he was out of baseball from 2004-2006.

Hamilton eventually found his way to rehab and sober living and was allowed back into baseball in summer of 2006 at the age of 25 (still young enough to have a productive career in the Majors) and was selected in the Rule 5 draft in December by the Cubs, who traded him to the Cincinnati Red for a measly $100,000. That's a far cry from the $4 mil he was given when The Rays selected him back in '99. He finally made his major league debut April 2nd, 2007 and hit his first career home run in his first start on April 10th. After battling through injuries he finished with solid numbers and was second in rookie of the year voting. He was traded to the Rangers in the off season and made his first All Star team in 2008 and put on a fantastic display at the annual Home Run Derby that year. Fast forward to today and Josh Hamilton has been a perennial all star, a leading candidate for Most Valuable Player honors and has lead the Rangers to their first division title in years. Not bad for a recovering addict, right?

Moral of the story is, not all athletes that have a rough go at it are lost causes. Not every story written about an athlete has to be slander or about something negative. If we put more focus on feel good stories such as Josh Hamilton's, maybe more athletes will want to be looked at in a positive light and make better decisions instead of subconsciously wanting to be seen on TMZ or World Star Hip Hop shacked up with a Kat Stacks type. It's sad that our society finds more time to point fingers at the negative than to focus on the positive. It's refreshing to see someone come from a background such as Hamilton's to become an impact player and highly recognized figure in sports.

Josh Hamilton should be a role model for young athletes everywhere. My hat goes off to you, sir.


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