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THE CURSE OF BIGNESS
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June 11, 2012
Josh Hamilton has outsized talents and grand plans for the free-agent windfall coming his way. But the Rangers' centerfielder also feels pressure to be larger than life. Through his faith, his family and a more studious approach to the game, he's learning bigger isn't always better
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June 11, 2012

The Curse Of Bigness

Josh Hamilton has outsized talents and grand plans for the free-agent windfall coming his way. But the Rangers' centerfielder also feels pressure to be larger than life. Through his faith, his family and a more studious approach to the game, he's learning bigger isn't always better

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"Every time Josh has had a relapse, it's what the enemy has used to mess us up, destroy our lives, destroy our marriage, destroy our testimony—and it's the very thing that has catapulted me and Josh even more in love with Jesus. I don't understand why the devil keeps trying it. It's not working at all. I'd have thought he got the memo by now."

Even on his best days, Hamilton says, he tended to shut down after returning home, wearied from being "on" with fans, coaches and reporters. As the day got quieter, so did he; Hamilton worked to please strangers and took his family for granted. Now, "I'm taking control and telling people who love me what I'm thinking—not hiding," he says. "Telling 'em what's going on in my head right now, so they can help me with it."

He's still digging deep at Gateway: into his childhood, the way he was raised. The inquiry may never end. "It's all a learning process, man. It's life," Hamilton says. "But I don't think I'd be at peace right now and able to do the things I do on the field if I was still searching for why this keeps happening. God's showed me things to help me get peace and not feel like this is something that's going to be with me forever."

Hamilton has always been good at telling people what they want to hear. Silver knows. When Josh came to his academy in Clearwater in 2006, Hamilton was separated from his kids and his marriage was still fragile. Silver had to call him out at least once, confiscating Josh's keys and wallet. Pro ball wasn't an option: Silver's big idea then was to travel the country, showing Josh off as a cautionary tale. After January's relapse, Silver wanted to look Hamilton in the eye.

He flew out to Arizona for a few days during spring training. "Is this worth doing anymore?" Silver asked him. "Can you do this baseball thing and still stay right?"

Before dinner one night, they all drove to a nearby field—Josh and Katie and the three oldest girls, 11-year-old Julia, six-year-old Sierra and Michaela, 3. Josh threw batting practice to the girls, softly, pitch after pitch. Silver shagged balls. He didn't feel a con. Man and family seemed something close to whole.

"To me, that was always the goal," Silver says. "That's more important than any home run he'll ever hit on television."

On May 16, hours before the Rangers' 38th game of the season, Hamilton squinted through the Texas sunlight and recognized an elderly woman standing a half-dozen rows up behind the first base line. He waved her down, and once she made her way he hugged her tight. "How's my buddy doing?" Hamilton asked.

Last July, early in a game against the A's, the woman's son-in-law, Brownwood, Texas, firefighter Shannon Stone, and six-year-old grandson, Cooper, were standing along the front edge of the leftfield bleachers when Hamilton fielded a foul ball. Hamilton is Cooper's favorite player. "Hey, Hamilton," someone shouted, "how about the next one?"

When he turned, the first people Hamilton saw were Shannon and Cooper. Later in the game another foul ball came his way, and Hamilton tossed it toward them, a bit short and to the left. Stone reached, lost his balance on the railing. He fell headfirst, 20 feet onto the concrete below. He was heard asking for his boy before he was taken to the hospital, where he died shortly after. The next day Hamilton said the sound of Cooper's "screaming for his daddy" was what he'd remember most.

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