Earlier this week the Texas Rangers won the American League Divisional Series against the Tampa Bay Rays. Their locker room celebration however, was quite different than the one they had upon entering the Divisional Series. This time, instead of champagne, the Rangers celebrated with Ginger Ale. The reason? Centerfielder and Most Valuable Player candidate Josh Hamilton, who also happens to be a recovering alcoholic and drug addict.
If you don’t know, Josh Hamilton was the #1 overall draft pick of the 1999 Major League Baseball draft by the aforementioned Tampa Bay Rays who signed him to a $4 million dollar contract. Through injuries and drugs, his career was derailed and in 2001 following a car accident involving Hamilton and his parents, all of whom recovered from their injuries, he began to use drugs and alcohol. After a few years of floundering in the minor leagues battling both injuries and his desire for drugs and alcohol, Hamilton was suspended in 2004 for violating the league’s drug policy. After repeated violations, the suspension was extended. The video below highlights how God turned his life around and in 2007 he was selected by the Chicago Cubs in the Rule 5 draft.
Hamilton made his Major League debut, sober, in 2007 for the Cincinnati Reds. Below is a picture I took of him during that same season.
At the end of the 2007 season, Hamilton was traded to the Rangers and he was afforded the opportunity to have a starting position. That same year, 2008, Hamilton was selected to the All-Star game in Yankee Stadium and put on one of the best HomeRun Derby contests of all time, losing though in the final round.
Since his return, his life has had some interruptions, as in 2009 when he relapsed. Photos surfaced of Hamilton in a bar, with several women and witnesses claim to have seen him drinking, asking where he could obtain cocaine, and making reference to a strip club. The only thing that seems to be verified was that he did get drunk that night. Hamilton issued a public apology in which he stated, “Obviously it was one of those things that reinforce that I can’t have alcohol. I got away from the one thing that kept me on the straight and narrow and that was my relationship with the Lord. That should always come first. Hopefully some good will come out of this. It just crossed my mind that night, ‘Can I have a drink?’ Obviously I can’t and this reinforces that. Since that night, I have not had another thought like that. I know it’s something I shouldn’t do because it leads to other things.” Major League baseball tested him for drugs two days after the incident and he passed.
Which brings us back to the Rangers playoff celebration. Like most teams, the Rangers celebrated their winning season and playoff birth with a champagne locker room celebration, but one person was missing, Josh Hamilton. In order to avoid any temptations, he left the celebration when the alcohol came out. 1 Corinthians 10:13 says, “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” Hamilton was offered that way of escape and took it, but in doing so missed the celebration with teammates. After the playoff series win earlier this week, the team recognized his faithful commitment and honored him with a ginger ale celebration instead.
Josh Hamilton’s war against sin is no different than our own. It’s easy for us to look at his besetting sins such as alcohol abuse and drug use and say how could someone who had it all throw it away. But let’s not be so quick to cast stones. He lives in the public eye and his life is on display, every step he takes is watched by someone waiting for him to slip up and when it happened he repented. What about you? Do you live your life in such a way that it is open for all to see, even to the point of accountability? Or are your sins less noticeable, lurking instead in the shadows and dark alleys. That verse earlier from Corinthians applies to you as well. God always provides a way out. Repent to God of your sin and let him restore you too. Find a godly brother or sister in Christ in which to confide in and to hold you accountable. I can speak firsthand to the power of accountability and the burden that is lifted when Galatians 6:1-5 is lived out, “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. For each will have to bear his own load.”