Linda Hamilton, a former amateur Softball player who was good enough to make the boys' varsity baseball team at nearby Cary High in the late '70s, laughs softly. She is proud of her son. Not surprised, proud. In 12 years she has missed only one of his games (in 1998, with a harsh case of the flu). Wherever Josh goes next season, she promises she and her husband will follow. (Josh's older brother is 21.) If he is starting for yooouuur West Tennessee Diamond Jaxx, the Hamiltons will be the newest residents of Jackson, Tenn. If the Billings Mustangs become his destiny, well, there are worse places to live than Montana. Right? Right.
"We've always been there for each other," says Linda. "Wherever he's been, whatever he's had to do, we've made sure to show support. He's still just a boy. I don't feel comfortable yet sending him out into the world by himself." The Mahoning Valley Scrappers? Says Linda, "If we have to move to Mahoning...." A moment of thought. "Where is that?"
The Hamiltons' aw-shucks, down-home humility makes Josh all the more appealing. He does not want to pitch. But if, let's say, Tampa Bay reverses strategy and plucks him as the next Nolan Ryan, there will be no J.D. Drew II: I'm Too Good for You. Josh says that he'll be happy with a fair offer. Specifically, something slightly higher than the $8 million over five years that last year's top selection, first baseman Pat Burrell of the University of Miami, got. "It's like my dad sometimes says," Josh says. "We're not lookin' to take anybody to the cleaners."
Late last year, the Hamiltons were besieged by about 20 agents pitching to represent their son. One by one, the suits found their way to Raleigh. One by one, they were turned away. "One guy, he was polite the whole time—very friendly, courteous, all that," says Josh, who has an adviser from IMG and plans to sign with the agency after he gets drafted. "The minute we told him no, he turned mean. I was like, Doggone, why be like that?"
Josh catches himself. "I'm sure they were all fine," he says. Of course, they weren't all fine. Josh sees that. But the kid from Raleigh also recognizes this: Mean folks make no difference. One day he'll be a major leaguer. Trust us—he knows.
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