So, while only some of you may have watched the annual MLB homerun derby contest on ESPN a couple of days ago, while others would never think to sit down and watch baseball period, I think many people can appreciate and respect what took place on that night of mystery and majesty.
The spotlight was cast upon a young man named Josh Hamilton, a young Irish lookin’ dude who plays for the Texas Rangers. With tatoos running up and down his arms and a very athletic look, Josh looks the part for the typical cliche…the curly haired kid who grew up to call baseball his job and dream come true. But there’s far more than meets the eye, and what lies beneath the surface of this young man, culminated in a night of absolute wonder and rather hushed critics.You see, Josh stopped playing the game about three years ago. He just flat out became uninspired, losing that passionate drive necessary to show up day in and day out to a profession that puts not only wear and tear on your body, but on your life as well. The old cliche is all too true…”baseball is your life,” if you play it at the professional level.
So while tearing your ACL is in almost all cases heraled as the “career-ending injury” regardless of who you are, for even if you recover you typically are never the same…which is code for never as good as you were once promised to be. Josh defied another baseball fate as it were…if you fall away from the game, it simply leaves you behind…no amount of emotion or rekindled drive can amount for the once timely passions and talent that you once brought to the sport.
The greatest athletes in sports have often tested this truth and been found wanting…sometimes dragging their legacy through new lows as they are now seemingly average versions of their once former glories. Michael Jordan returned to the game after years of being absent, playing baseball ironically, and while he was still impressive and arguably successful, he did not taste in any way of the success he had once fashioned day after day in his prime Muhammed Ali left the ring all but undefeated, often crushing his opponents with playful domination…only to be found the recipient of defeats from unranked boxers that couldn’t even have gotten a fight with him and noteriety in his hay-day. The list goes on and on, Joe Montana, George Foreman, etc. And while there are always exceptions, most fall short of this unforgiving truth.
So, in comes Josh Hamilton…”who” you might ask. Exactly.
Josh, while making the American League All-Star roster and putting up rather impressive numbers this season, was still one of those guys that nobody knew about for the most part. Josh had a most impressive performance in a very national spotlight three nights ago, where he bashed 28 home runs (7 better than the “untouchable” previous leader) in the first round of the home run derby, three over 500 feet mind you. But Josh’s performance was only made into immediate legend because standing in a cleat-swept box of chalk, in the final year of the hallowed Yankee Stadium, smashing red-stitched strikes deep into the sky being flung toward him by his 71 year-old Legion (high school) batting practice coach…Josh, had already won an against-all-odds battle.
You see, not three years earlier was injecting heroin into his veins with all the vigor and downtrodden dependency of an addict. Josh was a junkie, bordering on dangerous treatments to his body while also sifting through petty thefts to pay for his next score. Certainly a return to baseball, let alone a successful one, let alone a crowd captivating evening in Yankee Stadium beneath cameras and endless home runs was a thing of myth. But God had other plans for his prodigal son Josh.
In his own words, Josh describes how after another night of heroin injecting he was given a dream from God, in which he was going to be standing in Yankee Stadium, playing baseball, and giving the people something they’ve never seen before. I can only imagine how such a dream must have seemed laughable, angering and unbelievable all at once as he awoke the morning after yet another junkie filled evening…but God chooses whom He will, and on that night some three years ago, He chose Josh to fulfill what found our eyes only evenings ago.
It was remarkable…I almost cried, knowing how much trust Josh had to have had to overcome such a long, uphill climb into not only victory and success, but out of sin and addiction and the type of stuff that very easily are but inches away from death.
Typically the media only stop the derby and interview the players toward the end…if they make the home run derby finals or something. But Josh’s 1st round performance was made with such incomparable ingredients that he was high-fived by a good 50 or so of the players who were sharing field looking on, AND was stopped by the ESPN anchor gal who thrust a mic in his face after asking, “How are you feeling right now.” This is what he said…
“(laugh) This is literally a dream come true. I just can’t believe how good God has been to me in my life. He pulled me from such a bad thing…and here I am. I am so blessed and I thank Him.”
Josh went on to thank the crowd for making this “dream come true”…but there was a National stage, an ESPN pulpit if you will, and Josh evangelized shamelessly. For a few short seconds he was given by God the sacred seconds to be an athletic Billy Graham, preaching to the masses!
All I have to say is that I saw a crowd of 40,000 plus, who I am just assuming are not majoritively Believers, pay tribute to Josh…and more importantly paid tribute to his testimony/story. Granted it was mingled with athletic accomplishment, but that not a distraction but rather in my opinion a commandeered venue by which God spoke. Josh spoke of otherwise crazy, cult-like claims of prophecy and dreams and God…and a mob stood and applauded the man…they stood and respected the life so well lived and fought for… they stood and paid homage to a faith that, even if they didn’t agree with, they certainly couldn’t find a fault in.
God once wrestled with Jacob for the sake of a name…and so too did He grace the sport of baseball in the short-porched, right field Yankee Stadium, speaking of His power to overcome the forces of this world that do seek after every one of us. He testified to the fulfillment of following in Him by taking a former herroine addict from the despairs of drugs and dependency, and exalted him to the throws of baseball lore beneath an evening sky. Well done Josh…and I pray for your continued strength to witness through your talent and ability where God has seen to place you.
May we all possess such faith to follow dreams to whatever end…to His end.