- (Photo: AP Images / LM Otero)
The life of Texas Ranger Josh Hamilton has taken another dramatic turn following his record-breaking performance in Major League Baseball's All-Star Home Run Derby last week.
Since he belted 28 home runs in the first round of the home run contest last Monday, the former drug addict has garnered more attention than many could have imagined.
“I didn’t think it would change so fast,” Hamilton told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
“Obviously a lot of people were watching that. Tattoos give me away more than anything,” he added, referring to more than two dozen tattoos covering his body.
A few years ago, all of this would have been even more unimaginable for Hamilton. Though Hamilton was drafted by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in 1999 at the age of 18, Hamilton’s life took a turn for the worst in 2001, when he took his first drink and snorted cocaine for the first time – on the same night. He would later fall into the depths of drug addiction and find his life spiraling out of control.
"I went down this road where I never seemed to laugh or cry," he told The Associated Press.
His addiction led to eight trips to rehab, 26 tattoos, a heartbroken family, and three years away from baseball. From 2001 to 2004, the one-time No. 1 draft pick played in only a few games and was suspended by Major League Baseball for violating their drug policy.
Then, one October night in 2005, a paltry 180-pound Hamilton covered with tattoos of demons without eyes showed up on his grandmother's doorstep and asked if she would take him in - which she did.
Saddened by the appearance of a grandson who she could barely recognize, Hamilton’s grandmother challenged him that month to surrender to God – and, by grace, she got through to him.
From then on, Hamilton began reading the Bible and, with God's help, gave up drugs and alcohol.
After going to rehab and training again in 2006 under heavy watch of the MLB, Hamilton was drafted by the Chicago Cubs, placing him back on track.
"Just watching the transformation that God has made in Josh's life … I mean it's just been so awesome and such a gift from the Lord to see what He's done in him," Hamilton’s wife, Katie, told the Christian Broadcasting Network.
What’s more, in the winter of 2006, Hamilton had a dream – “the kind Joseph of the Bible had,” according to Third Coast Sports, a company that specializes in church marketing and event planning for sports teams.
Hamilton dreamed that he was taking part in a Home Run Derby in Yankee Stadium.
"I was at the plate, I saw all the guys sitting around and then I was at the plate walking toward them and actually a lady came up and interviewed me," Hamilton said, according to Third Coast. "I was able to show everybody how I was there, why I was there and that was because of God's grace."
And that’s exactly what happened nearly two years later.
During last Monday’s Home Run Derby at Yankee Stadium, Hamilton hit 28 home runs in the first round, eclipsing the next closest competitors’ eight.
“It’s a lousy night to be an atheist,” said famous sports journalist Rick Reilly during the broadcast of the Home Run Derby on ESPN.
Though Hamilton would eventually lose to Minnesota Twins’ Justin Morneau in the final round, his record-breaking first round was enough to snag him an interview with ESPN reporter Erin Andrews at the Home Run Derby’s conclusion.
"It's amazing in the past few years what God has done in my life and how quickly He has done it," Josh told Andrews. “I just really want to thank my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for all of this. I just want to glorify Him.”
Speaking later with the Seattle Mariners’ former All-Star second baseman, Harold Reynolds, Hamilton recalled his dream, noting that he didn’t know how many home runs he hit or if he had won in the dream.
“[A]nd you know why? It’s because God don’t care about all that stuff,” Hamilton said, according to Third Coast. “All He cares about is me being here. In my dream I got to share Christ with people and tonight that’s exactly what I did.”
Hamilton’s hope is to continue sharing his testimony to more people as the platform he stands on becomes larger.
"I pray the more successful I am, the more people will listen," he told a reporter with Gannett News Service.
On Monday, Hamilton hit a three-run homer and became only the fifth player since 2000 to have at least 98 RBI in his team’s first 100 games.
His team is currently third in the American League West division, trailing the Los Angeles Angels by 10 wins.