Josh HamiltonAnyone who knows me for more than a day or two knows that after my relationship with the Lord and my family, one of my great passions is for Major League Baseball, especially my beleaguered Detroit Tigers. While the Tigers season this year was one of the biggest disappointments I had in the last few years (only exceeded by their awful 2003 season when they lost 119 games, but even that was not totally unexpected), here in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex we witnessed of the greatest sports stories of the last 10 years or so. It is a story that began with such promise back in 1999.

Josh Hamilton was the first overall pick in the 1999 Major League Baseball Draft by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Josh was named as North Carolina High School Player Of The Year twice, High School Player Of The Year by Baseball America and Amateur Player Of The Year by USA Baseball. After receiving a $3.96 million dollar signing bonus, it appeared that Josh was well on his way to a long productive career in baseball. Then the wheels fell off.

Prior to the 2001 season, he was involved in an automobile accident where he and his mother were injured. Suffering a lower back injury, Josh found himself with way too much free time and way too much pain. Josh began experimenting with drugs which was escalated by various back and shoulder injuries. After an injury-shortened 2002 season in the Devil Rays organization, he showed up late several times during spring training in 2003 and was reassigned to minor league camp. Due to his substance abuse, Josh was suspended several times by Major League Baseball eventually banning him from the game and he did not play for about three years.

Josh tells the story of walking down the middle of the road on the double yellow line in a drug-induced stupor after running out of gas on the way to his dealer's place and describes it as the point where he was pushed over the edge. He literally was a dead man walking. He describes his lowest point in the summer of 2005 when he woke up after a crack binge in a trailer full of people he did not even know. But like the prodigal son who came to himself, Josh went to his grandmother’s house and began the long process of rehabilitation.

It was then that God began an incredible work of grace. Just like the father in that classic parable of the prodigal son, God has restored Josh and given him such a unique platform to exhibit His forgiveness and restoration.

Today, Josh is the new reigning RBI champ of the American League. He rocked the Home Derby before the All-Star game at Yankee Stadium and had even die-hard Yankee fans on their feet, screaming his name as he blasted 35 total home runs. But even through all of this, Josh understands where he came from and where God is leading him.

What a unique platform to display the amazing grace of God! Josh is quick to give God the praise for the work He has done and wants nothing more than to be an example of hope to those who are enslaved by their addictions.

Whenever Josh comes to the plate at the Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, over the PA system played loud and clear is Phillips, Craig and Dean’s song “Saved The Day,” which is a perfect soundtrack to a life that God has supernaturally changed.

The darkest day in history was over
All was lost on the cross
Beaten, battered, bruised beyond description
You gave it all, what went wrong?

This couldn't be the end of Heaven's story
‘Cause You came to save, to beat the grave
Three days and now they're looking for Your body
But You were gone, and now I know

You saved the day
The day You rolled the stone away
The empty grave is there to say
You reign
You saved the day
You tore the holy veil away
You opened wide the prison gates
You saved the day

Rescued from the shackles of my failure
In the dead of night, You shined Your light
Your gift of love is hope that springs eternal
And because of You, all things are new

You saved the day
The day You rolled the stone away
The empty grave is there to say
You reign
You saved the day
You tore the holy veil away
You opened wide the prison gates
You saved the day

Oh God, You rescued me
From my iniquities

Your gift of love is hope that springs eternal
And because of You, all things are new

You saved the day

The day You rolled the stone away
The empty grave is there to say
You reign
You saved the day
You tore the holy veil away
You opened wide the prison gates
You saved the day

Thank you, Lord for your amazing gift of grace and for every example that you give to us. May our lives shine as beacons of your loving-kindness in a dark and dying world.

For more on Josh Hamilton, here are two news stories: