Josh Hamilton – Redemption?
It was a sky high pop up to center field. It was routine to most, even with the high Oakland sky. The game was crucial, and Ryan Dempster had been given a four-run lead, courtesy of a five-run third inning. With two on, Ron Washington turned to his Golden Bullet out of the bullpen.
That pitcher was Derek Holland.
After giving up the lead and surrendering a two-run double to Coco Crisp, the harmless little fly ball coming out of the sky was equivalent to a long exhale of breath that was let out. Texas could head back to the dugout, tied.
Josh Hamilton didn’t over-run the ball. He didn’t under-run it. He didn’t misjudge it. And despite what he said, he bore down on the ball and was positioned neatly under the little pill, if not slightly to the ball’s right.
He simply missed. Oakland took the lead, and as David Murphy raced over and Hamilton lollygagged (great word) to the ball that continued to bounce, teasingly, behind him, thousands of D/FW baseball fans kept muttering to themselves, “We just needed one more game…”
After the game, with Hamilton uttering a lowly, “It sucks,” it was clear in the eyes of many what needed to be done. Banishment, excommunication, no more Josh Hamilton. If there’s one thing that Texans appreciate, it’s effort and hard work. Those weren’t displayed and there could be no forgiveness for that.
Fast forward to last night. Earlier in the year, Josh Hamilton returned to the club that displayed no regrets about his departure, the fans that chorused boos every time he came in wearing a Los Angeles Angels uniform, and were indeed on the fence about his return. The Rangers are paying $3 million of his contract, a paltry sum compared to the $125 million he originally signed for heading into 2013. Texas, again, found itself needing just one more win to clinch a playoff spot. Those words again.
Just. One. Win.
Derek Holland was on the mound again.
Shane Victorino laced a curveball towards the left field corner, where Josh Hamilton was guarding. He raced back, kept his eyes on the ball the whole way, and with the same hand that “dropped” a fly ball just shy of three years ago, clinched the ball, fell to avoid running face first into the wall, spiked his right knee on the cinders, slammed back first into the wall anyways – still looking at the ball, mind you, with something approaching a surprised look on his face – and rolled once away from the wall. He sprung to his feet with the energy and exuberance of a familiar, tattooed, blue-eyed outfielder of old and fired a rocket to the cut-off man. As Albert Pujols hobbled home, the throw from Elvis Andrus almost caught him. Almost.
The run scored anyway. The play wasn’t close enough to challenge. A groan escaped from the crowd.
Then the eyes of Texas turned upon its oft-injured, oft-troubled Prodigal Son of an outfielder. He had gathered himself, dusted the loose dirt from his uniform, and only slightly limped from the scene of the robbery…with that goofy smile on his face. One by one, then two by two, then row by row, section by section, Globe Life Park in Arlington’s inhabitants for the evening rose to their feet as Chuck Morgan played the “Highlight Reel” music. The run scored, but it could have been worse, and it was exciting, close, dramatic baseball made possible by that man with the blue eyes – Josh Hamilton.
The ovation lasted for all of ten seconds, but for those of us that always pulled for Josh Hamilton to redeem himself from his troubles and play like a house a-fire, it lasted a lot longer than that. He struck out later in the game with the bases loaded, but nobody cared. He saved the game in the second inning with that catch.
If there’s one thing that Texans appreciate, it’s effort and hard work. Hamilton may not be the 2010 MVP player anymore…but he’s here for this team, he’s here to show the fans that he’s still got meaningful baseball left in him, and you know what? Rangers and Rangers fans need him.
Welcome back, Josh. Let’s go win one more game.