Even though he
was new to the American League this season, even though he had only 298 major
league at bats entering this year, Hamilton is slicing up pitchers like no
other hitter in the league: At week's end he led the AL in RBIs (53), was
second in homers (12) and was tied for second in batting average (.333). He's
been just as proficient in the field. "He plays the shallowest centerfield
I've ever seen," says Mariners leftfielder Raul Ibañez, "and he can
still go and get the ball like nobody's business."
HOWEVER, HIS most
surprising stat of the season may be this one: Hamilton played all but three
innings of the Rangers' first 32 games. "After four years of putting my
body through hell," he says, "I'm amazed how well it's held up. I was
amazed last year that I even played 90 games."
After following a
rigorous off-season regimen two winters ago—he worked out six hours a day in
the gym and took 300 to 500 swings to, as he puts it, "make up for all that
lost time"—Hamilton scaled back his training last winter to 2 1/2 hours in
the gym, 25 to 30 swings in the cage and Pilates sessions every other day. He
also spoke at community centers, churches and high schools throughout North
Carolina, some 20 events in all. Josh and Katie are putting together a schedule
for next winter with visits to more cities around the country.
speeches last for more than an hour, and he tells the crowds that, yes, he
could have died and, yes, he was ready to give up baseball if that's what it
took to get back with his wife and kids. He always recites the scripture that
got him through last year, James 4:7. Humble yourself before God. Resist the
devil and he'll flee from you. He stays as long as it takes to answer every
question, to meet everyone who stays afterward, to hug the last straggler.
"It's my privilege to tell my story," he says. "I never get tired
of telling it. I know just how fortunate I am."
The Josh Hamilton
Story never gets old, even for Josh Hamilton.