Why I Admire Josh Hamilton Despite (Because of) His Latest Relapse

When I heard that Texas Rangers’ outfielder Josh Hamilton relapsed with alcohol again, I felt an indescribable mix of awe, sadness, courage, inspiration and strength.  Hamilton epitomizes the best and worst of human beings, the amazing things we are capable of but also the depths to which we can sink.  When I look at Hamilton, I see a perfectly imperfect man.

In Hamilton’s enormous amount of baseball talent, we can only be wowed.  Everyone knew this when he was 18 and the number one pick for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.  Everyone was reminded of this when he came back from his personal problems to become an All-Star in 2008 and an MVP in 2010.  Everyone saw this on display when he put on an amazing show at the home run derby during the All-Star break at Yankee stadium in 2010.  He has something that very few people in this world have.

He also has a severe personal problem.  His addictions to drugs and alcohol are well-documented, but the story of the depths to which he sunk is a frightening tale of how having what others only dream of isn’t enough to achieve happiness, or to even keep together as a functioning human being.  He lost more than three years of his prime playing days to his personal problems, but even beyond baseball, he was teetering on the edge of becoming one of the most tragic answers to a trivia question.

When he came back to baseball with a bang with the Cincinnati Reds in 2007 and flourished with the Rangers thereafter, he became an inspirational story.  He wasn’t shy about testifying to his come-back and spoke frankly about how far he fell and what it took to come back on top again.   It was a powerful redemption story, a testament to the belief that you should never give up on a person because one day, even after only many years, a person can change, survive and thrive.

Even in the worst of times, Josh Hamilton displayed the best of humanity.  Three years ago, pictures of him at a bar shirtless with several women came out.  At moments like these, most of us become cynical because we’ve seen far too many celebrities who claim they recovered but have been lying to themselves and others.

Yet what was revealed afterwards reinforced what we have all come to believe in Josh Hamilton.   He immediately held a press conference and confessed about what happened seven months earlier.  More importantly, he said that the day after that night, he informed his family, the Rangers and Major League Baseball of the relapse.  We believed his apology as genuine, because he himself came out cleanly to the people to whom he needed to come out cleanly, and not after pictures leaked.

When I heard that the Rangers already knew about the bar incident three years ago, I thought Hamilton was going to be fine because this was a guy who took personal accountability seriously.  And so he thought, too, when he tried to simply to move on the last relapse as a momentary weakness.

But the most recent relapse is a reminder that life is not that easy.  It’s said that where there’s a will, there’s a way, but the truth is that a will alone is not enough.  A will needs to be accompanied by the humility of remembering the dark past; family, friends and God who provide unrelenting support; the courage to ask for their help and the relentless strength to keep the humility and courage every moment of his life.  In describing his relapse in 2008, Hamilton spoke of how he gives everything he has on the baseball field and when he doesn’t do the same in his personal life, he strays from God, the bible and his support group.

Everyone has a weakness, but I for one don’t have a weakness that I have to fight every moment of my life.  And I hope I never have to experience what it’s like to be in danger of derailing my life the moment I go on cruise control.  It’s been nearly three years since Josh Hamilton’s relapse in 2008, which also happened three years since he became sober.  Three years is a deceptively long time.  It is certainly a period long enough to make you comfortable in your new life, but apparently not enough for your body to forget old habits.  Many years ago, I spoke with a person who hadn’t smoked a cigarette in over a decade but said she still craves it on a daily basis.  And so it similarly will be for Hamilton, who will be battling demons far larger for apparently the rest of his life.

I wish nothing but the best for Josh Hamilton, who shall always be in my thoughts and prayers.  I admire him for what he is capable of and how far he has come, but above all, I will always respect him for fighting the unrelenting battle to be the man worthy of my admiration.


8 Responses to “Why I Admire Josh Hamilton Despite (Because of) His Latest Relapse”

  1. 1 jon February 6, 2012 at 9:37 pm

    Agreed, you can tell when Hamilton speaks it is straight from the heart. No notes, no prepared speeches. Just how he is feeling and what he is struggling with. These could be tough times: losing a World Series in dramatic fashion for the 2nd year in a row. A contract battle looming. Pondering how his tossed ball got a man killed in Arlington this summer. Hinted at marital difficulties. I wish him all the best for sure.

    • 2 joesas February 7, 2012 at 8:21 am

      Indeed, Jon, it has been a very tough year for him. I think (and hope) he’s got it in him to make it, though…

      • 3 jon February 10, 2012 at 11:22 pm

        are you proud at my lack of cynicism?

        • 4 joesas February 11, 2012 at 1:03 am

          Yes, Jon. For the moment.

  2. 5 Jay the Elitist February 12, 2012 at 12:28 pm

    Joe Sasanuma – “It’s nice to watch amazing people do incredible things, but I above all love imperfect people striving to better themselves. Josh Hamilton does both, which is why he’s my favorite person, not just an athlete:”

    Joe Sasanuma is such a imperfect person that he needs to strive to better himself as well!

    • 6 joesas February 13, 2012 at 10:22 am

      No, Jay the Elitist. I’m so perfect I leave room for improvement.

  3. 7 Peter May 9, 2012 at 8:21 pm

    well said Joe…

    • 8 joesas May 10, 2012 at 7:31 am

      Thanks, Peter! Frequent reader, first time commentator, or first time reader, period? LOL.

      Thanks for reading and hope you come back!

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