Texas Rangers superstar outfielder Josh Hamilton has won an MVP award and played in the World Series in the past year. He is just one of the very best players there is in a game that demands skill, perseverance and dedication all wrapped into one athlete. Hamilton is also a serious and thoughtful Christian.
It was not always this way for Josh Hamilton. When he first came up to the Major Leagues he was addicted to drugs and on a course to total destruction. In fact, when I looked for information and photographs of Josh Hamilton I found pictures of his present life and past life, revealing something of the lewd behavior he once engaged in when he lived in spiritual darkness. But then Josh Hamilton genuinely encountered the grace of God in Jesus Christ and became a new creation. Not only did his marriage and personal life dramatically change but his baseball career got new life. One could say that this guy walks and talks “resurrection life” in the power of the Holy Spirit!
Last night Josh Hamilton played in another All Star game. But this was not the big news in his life. All Star games do not matter to Josh as much as people. You see, Josh Hamilton is that rare individual for whom mercy and compassion matter more than awards and money.
The day before the All Star game Hamilton patiently answered questions from the media about a tragic event from last weekend. Playing in his home park in Texas Hamilton did what many players have done for some years now. He heard a fan appealing for him to throw a baseball to him for his little boy. Josh turned and flipped a baseball toward the stands. (This is common in the sport.) The fan, 39-year old firefighter Shannon Stone, was there with his six year old son. When Stone reached for the ball he fell over a railing and plunged 20 feet to a concrete base behind the outfield fence. He was alert enough at first to tell responders to care for his little boy who was all alone. Minutes later Stone was dead. The irony was that Stone himself had responded to many victims of accidents, storms and traumas over the years.
But what about Josh Hamilton? He was devastated. The media has pressed upon him and asked him loads of questions. He has handled it all in a remarkable way. He has spoken about finding the grace to go forward while he also prays for the family and their great loss.
In a recent statement Hamilton spoke about what he will do next. He said, “I haven’t thought it all the way through yet. Obviously, I want it to be personal, face to face. I’d love to know what kind of man Mr. Stone was and just meet his wife and little boy and see where it goes from there.”
Hamilton and his wife have already established a memorial fund and intend to do everything they can to help this family. But Josh understands this is not enough. “Nothing we do can ever bring him back. But the organization can take care of the family and see that everything is going in the right direction.”
Sporting News Today, in the Monday digital edition, noted:
Two nights after Stone’s death, Hamilton hit the game-winning, ninth-inning home run for the Rangers, a release of sorts for a man who recovered from drug addiction and lives with an abundance of Christian faith.
Hamilton added of his baseball heroics: “It helps me handle life and this is life, this tragedy. There’s things that happen that you have no control over and you don’t understand them and you will never understand them until you stand in front of your maker.”
I could wish for this kind of gentle, thoughtful and solid Christian character from many public Christian figures in our modern world but in the world of big-time baseball, where many are Christians and more than a few of these Christians need to mature like everyone else, Josh Hamilton stands out as a serious Christian who has increasingly become iconic in how he lives his faith on a big platform. Here is a window through whom hope shines brightly. May even these tragic events give new life to many. Pray for Josh and his wife as they privately respond to the Stone family.