Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Tar Heel high school phenoms in the big show

If you didn't catch it earlier, here's a link to Tim Stevens' story today on local-boy-made-good Josh Hamilton, who leads the Texas Rangers against the San Francisco Giants tomorrow in the 2010 World Series.  Stevens is a fine reporter who has spent a lot of time with Hamilton over the years, recording the ups-and-downs of a career that has, at times, been a sad story and, lately, a storybook tale of determination and redemption. He was once called the best high school baseball player in America.  He once was addicted to alcohol and cocaine, his life a total wreck.  And now he's sober, walloping the hide off the baseball and leading Najor League Baseball in hitting.

Hamilton was a high school phenom at Athens Drive High School on Raleigh's west side, and folks around here have been pulling for him to straighten out his life and make full use of his talents. He has excelled this year, winning the American League batting title with an .359 average and becoming Most Valuable Player of the American League Championship Series. His career stats: .311 batting average, 93 homers, 331 RBIs, 553 hits. He hits left, throws left and plays left field.

Hamilton's comeback is an inspiring story, especially to those who once had dreams of diamond glory and now have aging knees that sometimes seem to pop like a fastball planting itself in a catcher's mitt. I have found it hard to forgive the Texas Rangers for moving the old Washington Senators out of D.C. in 1971 when I was stationed at the Pentagon.  But Josh Hamilton has done something I didn't think possible: He has not only become a great baseball player and by all accounts a first-rate person, but he's also made me a Texas Rangers fan. Play ball!

Update: A reader reminds me I ought to have said something about the other Tar Heel in the World Series: Madison Bumgardner from Lenoir's South Caldwell High (not Lenoir County, as this blog first and incorrectly said). Here's what the reader suggested mentioning:

-          Second youngest pitcher to start a game for the Giants since they left NY.
-          Youngest pitcher in Giants franchise history to win a post season game
-          Named Starting Pitcher on the 2010 Baseball America All- Rookie team
-          Had 1.13 ERA in 5 games in September as Giants overtook the Padres to win the NL West.
-          He’s from Hudson, NC (near Lenoir) and led South Caldwell HS to the state championship his sr. season.
-          Committed to play at UNC but chose to sign with the Giants after they made him the 10th overall pick in the 2007 MLB draft.


Anonymous said...

Don't forget...Madison Bumgardner of the Giants in a NC High School (S. Caldwell) as well. NC is represented well in this World Series. It should be a good one.

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