Josh Hamilton slid head first into first base last week and injured his thumb in the process. As a fantasy owner of Josh Hamilton, I am:

A) Stupid for having drafted him thinking he might play more than 130 games this season.

B) Stupid for letting his fast start get my hopes up that this would be the year he returned to his MVP-form of old.

C) Really, really pissed off at Josh Hamilton for the stupid way he plays baseball.

At least Hamilton said all the right things after it was clear he’d hurt himself doing something that is unanimously considered to be a no-no:

“Sometimes your instincts more than anything take over; the fun of the game,” Hamilton said. “I thought maybe when he was fielding the ball he had to go a little farther than he did, but he didn’t. I shouldn’t have done it, probably, but I’m not going to say I’m not going to do it again because I’d be lying.” (from MLB.com)

Oh you dickhead, you. Or am I the dickhead, seeing as you are still on my fantasy roster, occupying a spot on the Disabled List?

So to spite Josh Hamilton, let’s take a look back at the most useless part of a sports story ever written, thrown together by Chris Jones of ESPN Magazine¬†in 2009. The article — which, despite this garbage section regarding the 2008 Home Run Derby, is actually quite good — was a look back at 2008, a magical year in sports. We pick it up at the beginning of the part in question, upon the first mention of our baseball wild child, “recovered” addict, free-swinging slugger, home run derby conqueror, Joshua Holt Hamilton.

FOR JOSH HAMILTON, forgetting has never been an option.

Unfortunately for our buddy Josh, that’s probably true.

His tattooed arms tell his tale better than any archive could, gallons of ink drilled into his skin and laid bare for the world to see.

Wow, a tattooed former drug addict that found God? How unique.

With October’s first chill cooling the Chapel Hill air outside, he sat in the storage room of a local bookstore, where he was doing a book signing, wearing only a T-shirt. He knew there was no point in trying to hide his backstory. He also knew 2008 will be remembered as the year his tattoos started to fade, the year people saw something other than that long period when he was lost. On July 14, Josh Hamilton was found.

Where did you find him? Don’t tell me Yankee Stadium. Did you find him at Yankee Stadium, hitting bongs bombs? That’s totally where you found him.

Two years earlier, in 2006, not long before he was reinstated by Major League Baseball after years of drug addiction and depression, Hamilton had a dream. In it he was being interviewed by a female TV reporter at a Home Run Derby at Yankee Stadium. He had a bat in his hands, but he didn’t know how many home runs he had hit. He couldn’t even tell what uniform he was wearing.

Hold on. So, Josh Hamilton actually told you he had a dream about competing in the Home Run Derby? And you believed him? Unfortunately, I sort of do, too. If you were the GM of an organization and a player like Hamilton, with his checkered past, sat in your office and told you his dream was to some day compete in the Home Run Derby you are absolutely laughing a mean laugh in his face, getting out of that chair and moving on with your life. Who the fuck dreams about being interviewed in Yankee Stadium during the Home Run Derby? Josh Hamilton, that’s who.

As events turned out, after he changed out of his street clothes in the Yankee clubhouse that July afternoon, his superhero costume was American League blue. Soon the rest would fall into place.

‘The nerves don’t hit you until you’re actually there,’ he said, recounting the Derby as a line formed inside the bookstore. ‘I was the last guy to hit, so after the introductions, I went back inside the clubhouse and took off my shirt and unbuckled my pants..

ANDDDDD???

…and flopped down on a couch.

Okay, but this next part could totally be a dick metaphor:

The couches are so deep, people behind me didn’t even know I was there. When the contest got to about the fifth guy, I popped up, and everybody was like, ‘Aren’t you in this thing?’ That’s when I started to get ready. That’s when I started feeling it.’

“That’s when I started getting fired up to compete in BINGO at the county fair. I felt like this might be my year. Besides, I had had a dream years ago that I was at the county fair, being interviewed by a female reporter. I wasn’t sure if I had scored BINGO yet, or if I was wearing any clothes at all.”

Home_Run_Derby

It’s Derby Time, bitches! Note: that is a picture from last year’s Derby. Pitbull hasn’t actually been around since 2008.

Wait. No. He’s been around since 2001. Great.

Hamilton stepped to the plate as Clay Counsil, his 71-year-old friend and former youth coach, waited on the mound. ‘I felt just as if I was hitting on a high school field,’ he said.

In all fairness, the dimensions of old Yankee Stadium are quite a bit smaller than your average high school field.

He hit the first pitch to the bleachers in right-center.

… a startling 352 feet from home plate.

Then he hit another one out, then another, then another, then even more. ‘The crowd-the more I hit, the more they got into it,’ he remembered. ‘When they started chanting my name, that was something I’ll never forget.

He’s incapable of forgetting, we went over that.

I had chills. And right after they started chanting my name, the very next pitch, I hit my farthest ball of the night.’ That one went 518 feet, high into the upper deck.

Wowwww. A Major League baseball player hit a ball really far in batting practice? And then he kept hitting balls far? Wild. The whole premise of the Home Run Derby is absolutely wild. Can we hear more about how many fake home runs he hit and how far they went?

When the first round finally ended, Hamilton had hit 28 home runs, a record. His closest competitors hit eight. But it wasn’t the quantity of the performance that made the ground shake; it was its quality. During one stretch, Hamilton hit 13 in a row.

I thought it wasn’t about quantity? “13 in a row” sounds quantity-related.

He hit them into the black batter’s eye in deep center; he hit them off the mezzanine; he nearly hit one out of the Stadium altogether, through the slim gap in right that lets the trains see in.

Ah, quality.

And then he was interviewed by ESPN’s Erin Andrews, and as he spoke with her -about God, about being saved, about the heights that can be reached even from life’s lowest watermarks-Hamilton couldn’t stop thinking about how the whole of his dream had come true.

You were talking to Erin Andrews and couldn’t stop thinking about something else?

It was almost too much for him to take. He went back into the clubhouse to hide from the crowd noise, which still roared, and the magnitude of what he’d done.

Did I miss something? What had he done?

He decided to skip the semifinals to gather himself, but David Ortiz grabbed him and told him to get back out there, to stay warm. Before the final round, against Justin Morneau of the Twins, he retreated to the grass behind home plate. ‘If a camera had been on me, you would have thought I was crazy, because I was talking out loud,’ he said. ‘I said, ‘Lord, if you want me to win this thing, I’ll be happy to, but if not, we’ve already accomplished what we wanted to accomplish.’

Are you fucking serious Joshua?! You came all this way and you’re gonna tell God that it’s cool if he doesn’t let you win? I mean, IF that camera had been on you — and IF you actually were having conversations with God — we would have totally thought you were crazy, but since it wasn’t we think you are totally normal claiming you had a conversation with God that had to do with the 2008 STATE FARM HOME RUN DERBY* and how it was totally fine if you didn’t win because he already had guided you toward hitting 28 home runs in the first round of the 2008 STATE FARM HOME RUN DERBY*.

(*Sponsored by God, not State Farm).

But dude. You are totally right. YOUR DREAM HAD COME TRUE! YOU WERE BEING INTERVIEWED BY A TOTALLY HOT BLOND AFTER NOT WINNING THE HOME RUN DERBY AT YANKEE STADIUM! EVERYTHING ELSE IS GRAVY! Pennants, World Series trophies, and other team-related accomplishments are so 1990. 2008 is about Joshua Holt Hamilton, home runs, and derbies. And God.

Hamilton couldn’t recover from his own awe.

LOL.

Morneau won 5-3. But the trophy was a footnote.

The trophy, of the 2008 Home Run Derby, was a footnote. The trophy, of the 2008 World Series, would also be a footnote. Josh Hamilton would be the introduction, body, and conclusion of this fucking story. There is a reason God created footnotes.

Morneau was the champion 2008 would most quickly forget, and Hamilton would forever be the personification of faith and redemption.

Alas! Redemption! Eternal Redemption! By Losing the 2008 Home Run Derby that nobody in their right mind, over the age of 14 would EVER care about (Sorry, Chris Berman).

Now he was traveling across the country selling the most appropriately titled book of the year, Beyond Belief, talking especially to people who looked a little too much like him.’

WHAT IS THAT SUPPOSED TO MEAN, CHRIS? ALL OF IT. ALL OF THOSE WORDS. WHAT. DO. THEY. MEAN. Hamilton’s story seems pretty fucking believable to tell you the truth. Though, that is totally bizarre that people who look like Josh Hamilton would idolize him too. I mean, I would have assumed that tattooed white dudes would look up to athletes like Ichiro Suzuki, or Jackie Joyner-Kersee.

‘Could God have used me had I stayed the clean-cut kid I was and made it straight out of high school like I was supposed to?’ Hamilton asked in the back of the bookstore.

I’m really picturing him saying that quote in between hard pulls off a joint.

‘Probably. But when someone who looks like me and has been through the things I’ve been through talks about life, people see that no matter how far down you go, there’s always a way back.’ It was a perfect closing note.

Oh, good, this story is over then? NOPE.

Then he said, ‘If I read your story and you haven’t put God in there, I’m coming after you.’

YES.

Hamilton got up and went out front to sit behind a table in the middle of the store.

Got up… went out front… to sit in the middle of the store. This sentence seems important.

The first piles of books were placed in front of him. He signed, he shook hands, he posed for pictures, he held a baby.

You know what? We’ve cracked this case right open: Josh Hamilton is the reincarnation of Jesus Christ, back to sign books and hold babies.

Hundreds had come to see him. Two boys carefully approached.

‘Who’s your favorite player?’ Hamilton asked the younger one.

‘You are,’ the boy said.

‘Really?’ Hamilton responded, sounding genuinely surprised.

Don’t act too surprised — they came to your book signing and clearly want something from you.

I thought you were going to say Derek Jeter.’

Oh, they wanted to.

Afterward the boys beamed, holding their books as though they were made of glass. It was a sweet moment. They were brothers, 14-year-old Andrew and 7-year-old Alexander. I asked Alexander if Hamilton really was his favorite. He smiled and nodded. ‘At least for those 30 seconds,’ he said.

Josh “30 Seconds” Hamilton, ladies and gentlemen. Son of God, on a mission to sell books and win Home Run Derbies.

Only God knows how sliding head first into first base fits into that scheme.

 

 

Cover Photo courtesy of Dan Rodriguez.