I just finished reading "Beyond Belief: Finding the Strength to Come Back."
Now, I know what you're probably thinking here; and, it's "How can someone who is just 27-years old author their biography?" Or, [if you know me] maybe it's "Aren't you a little old to be reading baseball `puff piece' books?" Then again, maybe you're thinking both of these things?
Well, let me tell you..."Beyond Belief" may only cover the first 27 years of Hamilton's life. However, there's a very interesting story to tell within those first 27 years. And, trust me, this book is far from being a `puff piece.'
As I was reading Hamilton's story, all I could think about was "Wow. This is `The Natural' - just like the movie. Except, as entertaining as that movie was, the story seemed too far-fetched to be true...and, now, here's the same story...and it's all true!"
First, some background on Hamilton. When he was six-years old, Josh was playing on youth baseball teams for boys between the ages of eleven and twelve. Picture that...a 6-year old playing against 12-year olds. And, regardless of that age gap, he was one of the best players on the field during the games. Hamilton's talent, even at that young age, was off-the-charts.
And, Josh Hamilton's talent never fell back to the pack. Related, he was the first overall pick in Major League Baseball's 1999 Amateur Player Draft - at the age of 18. At that time, Josh was considered as being as good as Alex Rodriguez was at the same age.
However, in 2001, when he was just 20-years old, Hamilton - who, up until this time, was a squeaky-clean All-American boy in an Opie Taylor type way - started abusing alcohol and using illegal drugs. And, his habits became so bad that he became low-life crack addict...hitting absolute rock-bottom. In the process, he nearly destroyed the lives of several loving family members and threw away millions of dollars.
And, we're not talking about a blip on the radar here. Josh Hamilton's slide towards destruction was a five year journey through hell. During this time, he went through eight different drug treatment and rehabiliation centers.
We've seen stories like this in baseball before...names like Rod Scurry, Steve Howe and Ken Caminiti come to mind...and many times they have ended in tragedy. Yet, through his faith, Hamilton was able to gain control of his life...and get back into baseball as a 25-year old (in 2006) and bring his career to the point where he was the highlight of the Homerun Derby at the 2008 big league All-Star Game.
But, forget the baseball-side of the Josh Hamiliton story. And, just focus on the "person" angle here...as that's what's so riveting when you're reading "Beyond Belief: Finding the Strength to Come Back."
This book tells the story of a great talent - perhaps one of the greatest talents ever - falling so low, and out of control, to where the talent is wasted and its host becomes one of the dregs of society. And, once at the bottom, there are years of struggle to become whole again...with repeated rounds ending in failure after failure. And, then, finally, there's redemption. But, it's tempered with the fact that there's no guarantee of permanence - and that everyday is a new battle. Yet, on the flipside, everyday is also a chance to use lessons-learned to help others.
Human nature being what it is, "these types of stories" just resonate well with us...and Josh Hamilton's story is one of the best out there...in terms of "these types of stories."
I would recommend "Beyond Belief: Finding the Strength to Come Back" to anyone who wants to read a great, true, and inspirational tale - regardless of whether or not they're a baseball fan. I was very happy to read Hamilton's book. It's extremely well done.
This one connects - and it goes a long way.