Muscle Sport Magazine

Josh Hamilton: Success Without Steroids

Baseball’s Feel-Good Story is Clean in More Ways Than One

If there ever was a perfect ‘back from the dead’ story, it occurred last summer. An outfielder that was out of baseball and presumed finished lit up the sky with a miraculous comeback and breathed life into himself and his team. There was nothing that could burst his bubble, except for an unexpected slip-up.

That came in the form of a report that the player used performance-enhancing drugs, something that he didn’t deny. This player, of course, is former pitcher Rick Ankiel of the St. Louis Cardinals, but judging by the first paragraph, it could easily have been Josh Hamilton, who had his own feel-good story in 2007. There was no slip-up (in Hamilton’s case, cocaine) and he has taken it to the next level this year.

Last season, the former number one overall draft pick caught on for a last chance with Cincinnati. He earned the fan’s admiration and the cheers became encouragement for the Raleigh, North Carolina native, who nearly cemented his name as an all-time bust after Tampa Bay selected him out of high school in 1999. Playing in 90 games in his first big league season, Hamilton batted .292 with 19 home runs and 47 RBI.

In the offseason, the Reds dealt Hamilton to Texas and he has gone from a nice comeback story to an MVP candidate. Last night, he hit a ninth inning walk-off two run home run to beat the Angels, his 20th of the year. The lefthanded slugger also has 89 RBI, giving him a legitimate shot at Hack Wilson’s record of 191 back in 1930.

Hamilton has come all the way back from a crack-cocaine addiction that nearly cost him more than his career. He went through rehab and returned to wife and children, saving his marriage and life while proving everyone wrong who said he would never be able to play again, let alone make an impact.

When someone comes out of the blue and goes on a tear, today’s fan may right away accuse the player of taking steroids. The entire Mitchell Investigation and Barry Bonds/Roger Clemens fiascos have made that the ‘catch-all’ of excuses every time someone goes yard regularly.

But Hamilton is a special case, one that is very different from the other players that have fell into this category. Because he has kicked a substance abuse problem, it would be an astronomical mistake of Hamilton ever used PEDs. Back in 2006 while he was preparing for his comeback, Hamilton commented on that same subject.

“What’s crazy is that I never even considered using steroids,” he told reporters. “I know it doesn’t make sense. But I love this game so much that I would never cheat it.

“That would be cheating the game. Instead, I cheated myself.”

While it may take a second or two to grasp that analogy, it actually makes a lot of sense. Hamilton had put himself before the game when he was on his way to hitting rock bottom and now has put the game before himself. As he said, he loves baseball and is now making up for lost time, finally becoming the type of player that the then-Devil Rays thought they were drafting.

It’s easy to point to steroids, but you have to remember that Hamilton was always projected to be a star. The only reason why he wasn’t was because of drugs, no other reason. He always had the tools to be great; it was just that they were shrouded in a puff of smoke from a crack pipe.

Well, the smoke has cleared. And there aren’t any syringes lying around, either.

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