06/01/08 11:48 PM ET
Hamilton, wife share story with fans
Rangers outfielder gives testimonial after game against A's
By Shawn Shroyer / MLB.com
One man, dressed in full Rangers regalia with a front row seat, had the now famous issue of Sports Illustrated featuring Josh Hamilton's backswing on the railing in front of him, eagerly awaiting the cover boy's arrival.
When Hamilton finally made his entrance, followed by his six-and-a-half-month pregnant wife, Katie, into the Rangers' bullpen, he received an ovation filled with appreciation and encouragement. The man in the front row quickly replaced the issue of SI with a camcorder, to capture every moment on film.
As part of his efforts with Triple Play Ministries, Hamilton spent the next 40 minutes telling his story to those gathered. He told about the fateful 2001 car crash that sent his life spiraling downward.
"That was kind of the beginning of the -- I don't want to say 'end' -- but the beginning of my struggles," Hamilton said. He told about the tattoo parlor he started hanging out at soon after the accident.
He relived the time he showed up at his grandmother's doorstep weighing 180 pounds (down from his current playing weight of 235) after his wife had thrown him out of the house. He explained how his grandmother helped him straighten out his life.
"Everything people had told me, she said it again, and for some reason it worked," Hamilton said.
He described the nightmares he experienced throughout his addiction and how he finally came to peace with them. He announced that he'd been sober since Oct. 5, 2005. Then he took questions from the audience.
Hamilton's better half got an opportunity to share her side of her husband's struggles. Three years ago, they left Katie wishing she could forgive Josh and wondering whether she had the strength to stay in the marriage.
"I went through so many emotions during the addiction," Katie said.
Josh and Katie's relationship began innocently enough. Katie was already caring for her 17-month-old daughter, Julia, when Josh returned to Raleigh, N.C., in 2002 and requested through a friend to see her. The two attended the same high school growing up, but were never close -- not until Katie accepted his request in 2002.
"All I was thinking when he came over was, 'How did I not notice him in high school?'" Katie said.
By 2004, despite Hamilton's on-again, off-again substance-abuse problems going on at the time, the two were married. In December of that year, Katie was pregnant with her second daughter and the couple's first child, Sierra. Although Hamilton had been clean for some time after completing his rehab, he relapsed again in January, and four months later he was getting even worse. Like the time he was supposed to go to the drug store to pick up a prescription, but instead found his way to a local bar.
"I was so naive to rehab that when he told me he was out of rehab, I thought it was over," Katie said.
The next year, Katie had gone through as much as she could handle and she kicked Josh out of their home. As Josh continued on his path of self-destruction, hope faded that the Hamiltons would be able to save their marriage.
"My anger turned into bitterness and resentment very quickly," Katie said. "The toughest part is just being so frustrated and wanting so badly for them to have a productive and wonderful life and then seeing them not share that same desire for themselves."
Then Josh's grandmother looked him in the face and told him if he wanted any semblance of the life he had before, it was time to make it happen. And not long after he sobered up in 2005, he and Katie began seeing each other again.
First was in a Food Barn parking lot, where the two chose to meet so Josh could give Christmas presents to the girls. The next time was when Sierra caught the flu and Josh went with Katie to take their daughter to the doctor and they spent six hours together. Josh and Katie then took each other to the hospital when Sierra eventually gave them the flu.
Before long, Josh and Katie began to see a light at the end of the tunnel for their marriage.
"After we had spent some time with each, taking care of each other and kind of being a family, we realized there were still some feelings there and something we could work from," Katie said.
When Katie had finished her side of Josh's story, the crowd received it with applause every bit as supportive as the one they greeted Josh with when he entered the bullpen.
The crowd may have waited long after Sunday's game in the sweltering Texas heat to see the Rangers' outfielder, but it filtered out of the stadium knowing that, behind Josh's incredible story, is a resilient woman.
Shawn Shroyer is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.