That was the greatest line of the night during ESPN’s coverage of the home run derby. It came while the announcers, and myself, were still rubbing our eyes from what we had just witnessed: Josh Hamilton setting a new home run derby record by crushing 28 home runs, 13 consecutively, in the first round of the competition. And most of them were 450’+ moon shots. It was an amazing performance.
But what does that have to do with atheists? Well, just three years ago Josh Hamilton had made his bed in hell and was the definition of wasted talent. He was the No. 1 pick in the 1999 draft, but quickly spiraled into drug addiction, including cocaine and heroin. He was out of baseball for three entire years, whittling away to skin and bones while he battled his addiction, checking in and out of rehab eight times.
But the Lord brought him back.
ESPN tells much of the story in their article from 2007: “I’m proof that hope is never lost.” I recommend reading it; it’s pretty amazing.
The whole night the broadcasting crew had been making a big deal about Hamilton’s story and how dramatic it was. They of course didn’t make mention of The Savior’s role in his recovery, but Hamilton would bring it up often in his interviews. He’d thank God, which isn’t anything terribly unique among athletes. But he’d then go on to speak of “It’s amazing how quick He’s turned me around” and I started realizing this guy’s for real. And during his last interview, he made a specific effort to thank his “Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”
So, the broadcast crew could skirt around the topic only so much. And eventually they caved and mentioned that “finding religion” was part of his recovery story. And that’s when the “bad night to be an atheist” comment came out. A quick Google of the phase reveals that many found it unprofessional and offensive. I suppose from a broadcasting standpoint, it was a bit over-the-line. Oh well. Kinda pales in comparison to things Howard Stern throws out there.
It’s good to finally know more about this Josh Hamilton guy. I occasionally check the baseball stats on ESPN and always see Hamilton’s name near the top in home runs and RBIs. I had never heard of him before this season. Now I know why; and now now I know he’s the guy with the amazing testimony.
Adding to the drama of the story is the fact that when Hamilton was pretty much at his worst, Hamilton’s wife prophesied to him that he’s be back in baseball. They were separated at the time and Josh was heavily battling his addiction. But she felt the Lord assuring her that He’d turn Josh around. And so she boldly told Josh that it was going to happen.
She said, “Josh, I’ve been praying about it, and God’s going to let you back into baseball.”
Josh would say, “Yeah, whatever.”
She said, “No, it’s true! I’ve been praying about it, and He laid it on my heart that you were going back to baseball. But it won’t be about baseball. It’s going to be about what He’s brought you from and what He’s brought you through.”
Even though Josh laughed at the idea, it encouraged him to continue reading his Bible. Katie continued looking to God.
That’s from CBN‘s Web site, which also tells the story (but not as good as ESPN does).
And adding even more drama to the story is that two years ago Hamilton had a “vivid dream… he was being interviewed at Yankee Stadium after participating in the Home Run Derby.” And tonight he found himself in that very dream. Just watching him take it all in while launching home run after home run after home run after home run… it was powerful. God’s redemption is powerful.
The whole story kinda sounds like Joel 2:
And it shall come to pass afterward
That I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh;
Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
Your old men shall dream dreams,
Your young men shall see visions.
And also on My menservants and on My maidservants
I will pour out My Spirit in those days…
And it shall come to pass
That whoever calls on the name of the LORD
Shall be saved.