(This is a special guest post from a very good friend of mine named Alex. I did not ask Alex to write this, he just sent it to me one day. It is a review of Josh Hamilton’s book, which I have not read. But I trust Alex’s opinion on this. If he says it’s good, it probably is.)
(I did some minor editing, mostly adding commas where appropriate. Other than that, it is exactly as Alex wrote it. Enjoy!)
If you’re a Rangers fan (or even just a baseball fan) you’ve heard of Josh Hamilton.
He was one of the most promising high school prospects in the history of baseball and he blew it all on drugs. He was repeatedly banned from baseball and almost died several times from his addiction to crack cocaine. After years abusing his loved ones and ruining his life he turned it all around with the help of God, a strong family, and lots of forgiveness. It’s an amazing story that holds no punches as it dives into the highs and lows of Hamilton’s journey.
But I’m not here to write about his drug addiction, his fall from grace, or his miraculous recovery. Hamilton’s story has been told many times. What really shocked me was the Rangers response to his sobriety.
Hamilton had his first post-sobriety Major League season with the Reds. It was a whirlwind of a season with reporters constantly asking for interviews. It got so bad that Hamilton had to hold a press conference in every city he played in. His teammates resented the attention he got and made it verbal a few times late in the season.
But, when he was traded to the Rangers in 2008, everything changed.
With the new team came new reporters and another press conference. They were asking the same questions, “What is your story? What drugs did you use? Why would you throw everything away?” and he was answering them all when he noticed teammates Ian Kinsler, Michael Young, and Hank Blalock sitting in the back. He didn’t think anything of it – assuming they were waiting for their own press conferences – until a reporter asked,
“How many of these press conferences would you say you’ve done?”
“A lot,” Hamilton responded.
“Have you ever had your teammates show up to support you?”
He was confused by the question. It never occurred to him that Kinsler, Young, and Blalock were there to support him. He broke down in tears – no teammate had ever done that before.
A week later Kinsler invited him out to grab dinner – it was the first time a teammate ever asked him to hang out since going into the big leagues.
It wasn’t just Ian Kinsler. First baseman Jason Botts often invited him over to play Halo and Milton Bradley put together breakfasts for the guys. As a team, the Rangers aren’t just guys getting paid to play baseball, they are teammates. They are friends.
I’ve only followed the Rangers since 2010, but in that time I’ve seen this played out time and time again. Claw and antlers is an inside joke among friends. When the team loses, they’re out there joking around and having fun the next day; big losses don’t get to them because everyone knows their friends tried their best.
I’ve heard it said many times that the Rangers would do anything for Ron Washington, but it’s also true that the entire team would do anything for each other. They hang out, have fun, and encourage each other every day.
This is what makes them such a great team. Anyone can put together talented baseball players, but you can’t manufacture friendship. That’s a culture that has to be built by the team.
And while the book doesn’t talk much about it, it’s probably a big reason Hamilton has been able to stay sober all these years.
The 2011 World Series was heart breaking, but I love my team. I’m proud to call myself a fan of a team who loves each other enough to take the ex-cocaine addict under their wings. I’m proud to know the Rangers are as legitimate behind the scenes as everyone says they are. I’m proud of Michael Young’s leadership.
There are a lot of amazing things in Josh Hamilton’s story. Beyond Belief is a book I’d highly recommend to you.
But what’s stuck in my mind is the insight it has given me into the Rangers’ clubhouse. They’re the real deal.
Here’s to 2012. Here’s to the Rangers.