In 1999 a young baseball prospect from Raleigh North Carolina, Josh Hamilton prepared to be selected in the draft. Hamilton went first overall by Tampa Bay and got a $3.96 million signing bonus. The outfielder with all the potential in the world found himself starting his long journey to the majors with the Princeton Devil Rays.
The Fall Before the Beginning
In 2001 prior to the start of the season, Hamilton and his parents got into a motor vehicle accident. His parents would recover, but Hamilton would injure his back, resulting in him missing much of the season. With lots of downtime and most of his signing bonus still intact, Hamilton decided to start getting tattoos. During this time, he grew close with his artist and starting partying with him. This led Hamilton, a young kid who had never had alcohol or experiment with recreational drugs, to go down the wrong path.
In 2002 he would start the season in double-A playing for the Orlando Rays. Hamilton played in 56 games before his season got cut short due to back and neck pain. The Rays organization was becoming skeptical of his behaviors. They sent him to a drug rehabilitation center in California.
2003 rolled around, and Hamilton got an invite to big league spring training. He constantly show up late, and failed his first drug test. The Devils Rays proceeded to send him down to minors in hopes he would be ready for the 2004 season. During this time, he disappeared and then resurface sometime later. Eventually, Hamilton took the year off for personal reasons.
Come 2004, Hamilton failed another drug test and receive a 30-day suspension. During that time, he would fail two more tests and be suspended for the entire season. Then in 2005 with hopes of finally seeing an MLB field and serving almost 3 seasons of suspensions, Hamilton made his move. But before that could get started, he ended up getting arrested after smashing the windshield of a truck owned by his friend. The Rays decided to put him on the restricted list prior to the season. He would end up failing another drug test, and be suspended through 2006.
By the end of June 2006, he ended up being reinstated. Although, he had to clear waivers in order to play. He went unclaimed and, appeared in 15 minor league games that season.
The Rise of Josh Hamilton
Josh Hamilton got a new start in 2006 at the Rule 5 draft. He would be the third selection by the Chicago Cubs. However, he was traded to the Cincinnati Reds immediately after, for cash.
In 2007, Hamilton finally saw himself in majors, after making the team from a strong spring training showing. He would make his Reds debut on April 2nd against the Cubs in a 7th inning pinch hitting scenario. Hamilton’s long journey to the majors was met with a standing ovation. He finished the game playing left field. Eight days later, Hamilton received his first MLB start against the Arizona Diamondbacks, and bat leadoff. Hamilton went on to receive Rookie of the Month honors for April after a strong showing. After the 2007 season, Hamilton would find himself on his way to the Texas Rangers.
2008 saw Hamilton win the Centerfield job in Arlington. During the season fans selected him as a starter for the All-Star game in New York. He would compete in the Homerun derby the night before and break the single-round record with 28 home runs. However, Justin Morneau ended up winning the thrilling derby. On August 17th playing against Tampa Bay, Hamilton became the sixth player to be internally walked with the bases loaded. Hamilton would also finish the season seventh in MVP voting that
In 2010, Hamilton made his third consecutive All-Star game. When August rolled around, he would set the Rangers record for most three-hit games in a season with 24. In early September Hamilton makes a leaping catch crashing into the outfield wall, bruising his ribs, resulting in him being sidelined to most of September. Come late October, the Rangers would win the ALCS, and Hamilton won ALCS MVP along with his AL MVP during the regular season.
He resigned in 2011 for $24 million over 2 years. Unfortunately, on July 8th, 2011 in Texas tragedy struck, after catching a foul ball Hamilton would toss the ball to a fan in the crowd. However, that fan fell over a railing after making the catch, and he later died to his injuries in the hospital. On September 30th, the victim’s family made their first visit back to the stadium and, his 8-year old son threw out the ceremonial first pitch to Josh Hamilton.
During 2012, Hamilton would set the record for most All-Star votes gathering 11 million, a record that stood until 2015. On May 8th Hamilton became the 16th player to hit four home runs in one game. During the game, he also broke the American League record for most bases touched in a game, and second in Major League history.
The Fall of Josh Hamilton
Hamilton’s stats began to drop in the second half of the 2012 season. Manager Dusty Baker, moved Hamilton down to the fifth in the batting order, and out of the field into the designated hitter spot.
Los Angeles Angels:
After the 2012 season, Hamilton would be on his way out of Texas, after he signed a five-year $125 million deal with the Los Angeles Angels in search for a World Series Championship. During his first season with the Angels, Hamilton bat .250 with 21 home runs. In 2014 he hit .263 with 10 home runs. During his slump, Angel fans started booing Hamilton while he was at the plate. Hamilton responded by telling the Orange County Register that he “didn’t … play for the [fans]”.
Come 2015, Hamilton required surgery on his AC joint in his shoulder. Hamilton later relapsed while rehabbing, but since he did not fail a drug test, and came clean to the league, he could not be suspended. Although the league could not suspend him, Angels ownership was unhappy. Ownership made comments to the media implying he would not return to the team. The Angels began implanting a rehabilitation program for Hamilton. But, before anything could go into fruition, the Angels began to look for a trade.
April 27th, 2015 Hamilton found his way back to Arlington. He would start the season rehabilitating his shoulder in the minor leagues. On May 28th he returned to Texas. He would be greeted with a standing ovation from Ranger fans. During the ALDS Hamilton ended his playoff hitless streak with a single in game 3 against the Toronto Blue jays. His 31 at-bats without a postseason hit sits at second-most all-time.
2017 would mark the end of Hamilton’s career. In February he had surgery on his knee. While rehabbing his knee, he re-injured it. Subsequently, Texas released him, marking the end of a career which was full of highs and lows.
Three years removed from his MLB career, the former Rangers star found himself in more trouble. On October 30th, 2019 Hamilton was arrested for causing injury to a child, which is a third-degree felony. In April 2020 he was indicted on the charges. He faces two to 10 years in prison.
All Said and Done
Josh Hamilton finished his career with a .290 batting average, 200 home runs, and 701 runs batted in. Although things started rough for Hamilton, and he made bad decisions earlier in his career that almost derailed his life. He did manage to get it together and turn a bad thing into a good thing, being inducted into the Rangers’ Hall of Fame in 2019. Things did not go all well after his career. But Hamilton’s actions off the field do not reflect his skill on the field. It reflects the type of person he is. If interested in more information be sure to check out his book. Beyond Belief: Finding the Strength to Come Back.
Follow me on Twitter at @cdemp45 for more of my content!
Come discuss this and much more at the Overtime Heroics forums!