DALLAS (ABP) — Texas Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton told a Texas Baptist mega-church Nov. 7 that he would not have overcome the alcohol and drug addiction that nearly cost him his baseball career without God's help.
Coming off a season in which he won the American League batting title and led the Rangers to their first World Series, Hamilton, 29, told worshippers at First Baptist Church in Dallas that the best part of his MVP-caliber year was the platform it gave him to talk about his faith in Jesus Christ.
"That's what I enjoyed most about the entire year," Hamilton said. "Not the awards, not going to the playoffs, going to the World Series … but it was about sharing Christ with as many news people as I could, preferably live so they can't cut out Jesus' name."
Hamilton, who recounts his faith story in a 2008 book titled Beyond Belief, told the congregation he went to church on and off while growing up, but most of his interests revolved around sports. He accepted Christ after his rookie season but did not become grounded in his faith.
After injuries suffered in an automobile accident forced him out of baseball, Hamilton started hanging around tattoo parlors, where his friends introduced him to alcohol and drugs.
"It was the biggest mistake of my life," Hamilton told worshippers.
After that, he said, he was on and off of drugs for the next three years but got suspended from baseball after failing a couple of drug tests.
He stayed clean for several months, got married and started a family before a relapse forced a separation in his marriage and a restraining order against him to keep him out of his home.
He hit bottom when his grandmother confronted him for using drugs in her house and for the first time made him understand how he was hurting people who loved him. He pulled a Bible from a closet and recommitted his life to Christ.
Hamilton said the experience brought about a complete reordering of his priorities, which before than had been exclusively about baseball.
"When I recommitted my life to Christ, the priorities made a drastic change," he said. "It went God first, humility, family, sobriety and then baseball, if it ever happened again."
But all that didn't prevent another well-documented relapse when he went to Arizona to prepare for the 2009 season.
"For three weeks I stopped reading my Bible," he said. "I stopped doing my devotions. I stopped praying. I stopped fellowshipping with my accountability partner for three weeks. And I thought I could take one drink. And that one drink led to about 20."
Hamilton said he has to take safeguards to keep from falling off the wagon. For one thing, he doesn't carry cash or credit cards. If he needs to buy gas for his truck, even though it is inconvenient, he calls his wife to meet him at the gas station and then returns the credit card to her after filling up his tank.
He also consciously surrounds himself with people who care about him and want the best for him.
"It's an every day battle," he admitted. "I've got to get up every morning and take my cross up. I've got to just wake up in the morning and tell myself with God's help and Christ's help I'm going to be a responsible man, husband, father today."
His support system extended to his Ranger teammates, who rallied around him after winning the American League Division Series by dousing his head with ginger ale instead of the traditional championship celebration involving champagne.
Bob Allen is senior writer for Associated Baptist Press.