Thursday, July 17, 2008

Josh's Corner: Josh Hamilton's Hollywood story

Josh Garcia, the third member of the "CortSide" radio team, chimes in today with his view of Josh Hamilton's Home Run Derby performance in his first guest post. Josh currently lives and works in Los Angeles:

Josh Hamilton, a former first overall pick in 1999, wakes up in his Manhattan hotel. He’s in NYC for the last All-Star game in Yankee Stadium. He turns on the TV and guess what’s on? It’s "The Natural." Perfect timing; the scene where Robert Redford hits the home run and shatters the lights is about to come on when he hears knocks at the door. It’s his drug tester, no big deal for Josh, who is used to them coming by 3 times a week every week. He is no stranger to the temptations of the road, and the experience that has come with it. “Hold up, I gotta watch this.”

In 1999 after being signed by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays (imagine if they had kept him, where they would be this year!) He was 18 with a $4 million signing bonus. Think its safe to say first time away from home, he was young and rich and probably going to make some poor decisions. I know I would. Heck, give me $1,000 at that age and I would have wound up in Canada proclaiming that I discovered it and all those who dwell in those parts shall be my subjects.

He fell in with the wrong crowd, tried every kind of drug and he got addicted to some bad ones. This is a kid who has all the ability in the world. “The saddest thing in life is wasted talent,” Robert DeNiro’s character would lecture his son in "A Bronx’s Tale." All the talent, and all the potential, gone because of some drugs. He was kicked out of baseball.

Stories about him gunning kids out from the warning track and hitting 450-foot bombs were a thing of legend. He was all but forgotten in the world of baseball until a couple years ago he was allowed to play in an independent league and sure enough he rocked that and ended up getting signed by the Chicago Cubs (imagine where they would be if they had him now!!) He was then traded to Cincinnati, and eventually Texas where he would get it all together and, oh yeah, have 25 more RBIs than anybody in the AL by the break. Not to forget, he was out of baseball for years and it looks like he didn't miss a step.
So this is some sort of Hollywood story or made up story. I was tentative until Monday night. A reporter asked living legend Derek Jeter who was going to win the home run derby. Knowing Jeter is savvy with the media and knowing how diplomatic he is, I figured a generic, “I hope everyone does well,” was going to come out. After some hard thinking, Jeter says, “Josh Hamilton.” I was intrigued, and sat down to watch one of the greatest All-Star moments there will ever be. So whoever planned the order of the derby knew some things that we did not. They had Josh Hamilton go last and gave plenty of time for everyone to talk about how great a story he was.

So Josh brings his 71 year old Legion coach, and you are thinking, 'Man I hope this guy doesn’t get hurt/die/fall over in front of 55,000 people.' His second home run almost gets hit out of Yankee Stadium. Yes, OUT of Yankee Stadium, the stuff legends like another Josh are made of. It’s been said that Josh Gibson, Negro league equivalent of Babe Ruth once hit a home run out of old Yankee Stadium. No one knows because YouTube wasn’t around back then.

So back to Monday night's home run derby at the best ballpark in the history of ballparks. Josh Hamilton is hitting home run after home run and these are not "little tiny, barely making it over the wall" home runs. These are "people better watch out in left field because someone is attacking them with baseballs" home runs. There were 500-foot shots, upper deck bombs, real impressive like “woooooow” home runs. Josh was trying to hit it out of the stadium; he might have been trying to hit the 4, who knows? 28 home runs later the appreciative New York fans gave him a well-deserved “Ham-il-ton, Ham-il-ton” It was a real special moment in the realm of Yankee lore. For a non-Yankee to get a response like that should be viewed as a very special accomplishment.

One of the great trivia questions in 20 years will be who won the Home Run Derby at Yankee Stadium in 2008, and the answer should be, "Who cares? Did you see Josh Hamilton?"

Aside from that everything was pretty normal. The All-Star Game went to extras, and big surprise no one wants to leave Yankee Stadium. The Red Sox were booed and Billy Wagner blew a save. The AL won, all was right with baseball. But when remembering this All Star break in 2008 from the historic Bronx and even more historic Yankee Stadium, people will be talking about Josh Hamilton's Hollywood ending and I’m hoping for a sequel, or at least special features on the DVD.

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