Saturday, June 27th, 2009
This is an autobiography. Josh Hamilton introduces himself as a flawed, sometimes-charming, sometimes-reckless drug addict. A hell of an intro.
Comparing himself to Jose Conseco, Josh says: “But I was just 18 years old and, you know, unlike Jose, I was working with God-given 18 year old muscles”.
All of his life, other players would stop what they were doing to watch Josh hit batting practice (he says). Josh says he came to believe that the 4 greatest words in the English language were “Did you see THAT?” Now, I’ve heard those same 4 words more than a few times myself, but they were usually not meant as a compliment.
In the spring of 2001, Josh started accumulating “permanent reminders of a temporary feeling”. The attitude that spring around the Devil Rays could be described as “optimistically defeatist”. If the team was going to be bad anyway, why not be bad with young players who could get better and might be fun to watch. (I have to say this description has a somewhat familiar ring to it in 2009.)
Josh describes in detail how the $4 million dollar bonus baby became a drug addict.
Josh traces the frustration of suffering from recurrent debilitating back pain. As an aside, I (The Cubbiedude) have suffered episodes of debilitating low back pain in my life, and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.
Josh’s father told him: “The real shame of the whole deal is that you’re preventing people from having the pleasure of seeing you play” or words to that effect.
I came away from this true story amazed at how full of himself Josh Hamilton seems to be. This guy’s ego just kills me. I mean, it’s not like he found a cure for cancer or anything.
And, I have to say, I disagree with Josh’s characterization of the people who did what he asked them to do and provided for him what he asked them to provide, as lowlifes. If they were predators preying on people like him, then he was also a predator, preying on people like them with his money and fame.
I’m happy that Josh is clean now, but this attitude that he’s somehow a better person than the people he got loaded with in the past is, to me, part of his problem:
Nobody’s been them asking for their autographs since they were 6 years old.
Nobody gave those guys livin’ in the trailer a four million dollar high school graduation present.
None of those people have a major league baseball career to come home to.
Nobody chased him around and forced him to take anything.
Nobody put a gun to Mr. Hamilton’s head and pushed bad choices on him. In fact, it seems that he was the one doing the “pushing”.
Those people only did what he asked them to do.
In fact it was one of those very people who made the phone call which connected Josh to Katie Chadwick, who later became his wife.
At this point in the book the thought which entered my mind was: “It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game.”
Perhaps we could say that Josh Hamilton needed, and received, a lesson in responsibility.
To sum up, there are two things that I’m trying to say here:
- Like many of the people Josh has encountered since he got his life and career back on track, I’m happy for him and I wish him well. But I’m equally hopeful that the folks he interacted with during the bad times (who were also influenced by him and his money) can get their lives on track, too.
- I’m happy I never had that much money that early on, so I never had that much temptation.
Was it Kinky Friedman who once said: “A happy childhood is no preparation for life”?
To be brutally honest, the Tale of Josh Hamilton is a Perfect Storm of: too much money; too much opportunity; not enough smarts.
He’s lucky to be alive.
And aren’t we all?
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