My son is a 14-year-old high school freshman with aspirations of playing baseball in college. In an effort to encourage him to read more on his own, I bought him a book about the life story of a famous major league baseball player for Christmas. I knew the basics of the well-known (by baseball followers) back-story of baseball star, Josh Hamilton. Josh Hamilton was a prodigy from the time he was a young child, hitting home runs against twelve-year olds when he was only six. He grew to be six-foot four and could hit a ball further than anyone ever had by the time he was in high school. He could also pitch the ball hard faster (97 mph) than 95% of major leaguers at the age of 18.
Josh Hamilton’s story is fascinating to me as a parent of a child athlete and high school age kid (with 2 daughter’s right behind him). I bought the book because I knew that Hamilton was drafted #1 in the entire nation coming out of high school, was paid a huge signing bonus and somewhere along the way got addicted to drugs and it almost ended his career. He somehow overcame this and is now a star.
I wanted my son to read about what drugs can do and how anyone can get addicted and what that could lead to.
My son goes to Glenbard West High School. I have heard that at most high schools these days, kids can get their hands on any drug they want with relative ease. Like most parent’s, this scares me the heck out of me. I think my hopes for my kids teen years are pretty common; graduate high school with relatively good grades, no criminal mischief, no drug issues and moving on to college. I think my kids are on the right track, but I imagine Hamilton’s parents thought that too.
Josh Hamilton never did drugs in high school. He never even tried alcohol. He was famous by the time he was seventeen. He would pitch at high school games with 60 professional scouts watching him. One teacher gave him an “A” on a final exam in exchange for autographing a dozen baseballs! In light of his fame, he was a remarkably humble and sheltered young man happy to play baseball and be a relatively normal kid.
When he was drafted #1 after his senior year of high school (received a $3.5 million signing bonus) he went to play in the minor leagues in Tampa. His parents bought a home nearby and rather than live with his teammate/roommate he usually choose to stay with them. His story, however, is not one of overbearing parents driving their kid over the edge.
Hamilton tells the story in his own words. It’s scary how honest he is as he describes his addictions and how an addict behaves, especially one with fame and money. As we know, it seems every now and then we hear about celebrities and their drug addictions that eventually cause their death. So far, Hamilton has beaten those odds.
Before reading the book, I had no idea of the extent of his addictions or how he finally got sober. It was a long brutal ride of addiction and attempts to get sober. Unfortunately, Betty Ford, Hazelden and other rehab clinics were not successful. His grandmother and his relationship with God turned this man’s life around.
Within Josh’s first week of sobriety in October 2005, he showed up at his grandmother’s house in the middle of the night, coming off a crack binge.
“I had the most haunting dream. I was fighting the devil, an awful-looking thing. I had a stick or a bat or something, and every time I hit the devil, he’d fall and get back up. Over and over I hit him, until I was exhausted and he was still standing.” Josh awoke in a sweat; the terror he felt from his dream made the dream feel real.
Seven months later, Josh had the same dream; but this time, there was an important difference.
“I would hit him [the devil], and he would bounce back up, the ugliest most hideous creature you could imagine,” he said. “This devil seemed unbeatable; I couldn’t knock him out. But just when I felt like giving up, I felt a presence by my side. I turned my head and saw Jesus battling alongside me. We kept fighting, and I was filled with strength.”
Josh believed that the lesson he learned through his dream was obvious, “Alone, I couldn’t win this battle. With Jesus, I couldn’t lose.”
James 4:7 became the Bible verse Josh would memorize and stand on, “Humble yourself before God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.”
“I read that over and over, committing it to memory. I vowed to change, to make every move from here on a positive one. I battled vicious physical cravings – the devil came at me hard – and as soon as I felt one coming on I would repeat the verse,” he said.
Hamilton’s comeback continues as has not only made a remarkable return to the game of baseball. His comeback is truly a one of a kind story as he did not play baseball at all for a couple of years while he was using and then returned to play at a level he had not achieved prior to his addiction. He is a major league all-star, won an MVP Award and just signed a 5 year, $125 million guaranteed contract with the Anaheim Angles.
I was obviously moved by this book as it is about much more than baseball. I haven’t slept well the past few nights thinking about the possibility of any of my kids trying and getting addicted to drugs. I think my wife and I are good parents and being a good example to our children, but Hamilton’s parents seemed every bit as good. My son has only finished the first four chapters of the book which focus on Hamilton’s childhood. The somewhat graphic portrayals of the alcohol and drug culture are in the next several chapters. I am not sure if I want my son to read this (would it give him any bad ideas?). Hamilton did overcome this and still be a star. Does that mean a teenager that reads this might think they can try drugs and either avoid getting addicted (while loving the high) or beat the addiction?
Times are different these days and I wish I knew the secret to keeping teenagers from making poor choices. I know it’s part of being a parent, but it is not healthy for me and my “worrying” nature.
Please share any advice for me and other readers, many of which will face the same kind on parenting decisions.
In the meantime, watch this video.
Josh Hamilton’s INCREDIBLE MLB Home Run Derby Video – I get goose bumps watching this.
Josh Hamilton’s Fight with the Devil
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