Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Review of Josh Hamilton's Beyond Belief

I had the honor of reviewing this book for Deena for her blog A Peek at My Bookshelf. Actually, I begged her for the book and she said she'd send it to me if I reviewed it for her. Ok, it was still an honor.

As you can tell, I'm quite the wordy person, so here goes my first official guest reviewing job:

When I was growing up, my family loved baseball. My dad coached baseball before he was married or had kids. My brother played. I was the scorekeeper sitting in the dugouts throughout high school and junior college. I’m a Texas girl, so that also means going to Rangers games, and watching them on TV. Being a Rangers fan is not easy folks. For those of you not from Texas and don’t realize it, I have to say that it can sometimes be downright painful. However, the 2008 had one bright spot that kept things interesting. It became fun to watch and see what one certain player would do. That player was Josh Hamilton.

When I saw that this book was going around to the blogs to be reviewed, I emailed Deena for a chance to read the book. Like many baseball fans, I had heard Josh’s story about his comeback from drug addiction to make it to Major League Baseball. But, just hearing parts of the story as told to the media in snippets, is nothing compared to reading the entire thing.

Growing up, baseball was life for Josh’s close-knit family. Eat, sleep and breathe baseball. From the time Josh was old enough to throw a ball or swing a bat, his talent was far beyond what anyone had ever witnessed for someone his age. Early on, everyone knew that Josh was “destined” for baseball greatness. That plan was right on track through his youth, and after high school, he was the first pick of the first round of the 1999 baseball draft. With a signing bonus of $3.96 million from the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, he was in the spotlight and well on his way.

After a couple of years in the minor leagues, Josh’s career was thrown off track. Due to an injury, Josh found himself unable to consistently play the game he loved. At the same time, he was separated from his parents for the first time after they had spent his first couple of years on the road with him. With free time, and new found freedom, Josh started finding some new interests. At first, it was just an obsession with tattoos, but after time spent in the tattoo parlor, that led to his first taste of alcohol and first run in with drugs.

What followed was four years of a powerful addiction to cocaine. Most everything depicted on TV shows related to addicts happened to Josh. His life became obsessed with the drug that ruled his life. After repeated suspensions from baseball due to failed drug tests, baseball became low on his list of priorities because of the lifestyle of his addiction. There were times where he would go to rehab, only to fall back into the grasp of addiction.

Not only did Josh lose his opportunity to play the game he loved, he almost lost his family, his marriage, his children, and barely escaped with his life.

There was a turning point, however. His Christian grandmother took him in when no one believed in him any longer. Her final threat to kick him out of her house, after he had come to her as a last resort, was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Josh couldn’t handle the disappointment of losing her as well. In a desperate prayer, Josh realized that if he didn’t have Jesus in his life, he would never be able to overcome his addiction. He picked up a Bible in his grandmother’s house, flipped open to James 4:7 and found what would be the verse that would change his life: “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”

The path to recovery was not, and still is not easy. After two years of resisting temptation, repairing the damage that drugs did to his body, hard work, and most of all his faith, Josh returned to the game he loved. Through a series of events, Josh was able to return to the baseball field and fulfill his dreams. He finally made it to the major leagues.

In 2007, he played his first major league game as a Cincinnati Red. After being traded to the Texas Rangers for the 2008 season, Josh really made a name for himself. He caught the attention of everyone in his amazing performance during the Home Run Derby at the All-Star game.

And he made the Texas Rangers dismal season bearable to watch.

The bottom line: This book is a great story on how, through God, all things are possible. Baseball fans will love it. Even if you just like to read about people’s personal stories, this is a book you would certainly enjoy.

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