Last Saturday, I interviewed Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton. I first met Josh at the Fan Fest in January. I introduced myself after a Q&A session and asked if I could interview him for my blog. He was very nice and agreed. I’ve talked to him a bunch of times since then at spring training and before games. He always comes over to say hello and mentions that we still need to set up the interview. A couple of weeks ago, he said that he was tired of putting it off and he called Court Berry-Tripp (from the Rangers Media Relations department) over and asked him to arrange it for May 31st. Court and I e-mailed each other back and forth until we set something up. On May 31st, my dad and I were supposed to go to the center field offices at about 1:40 PM, so that we could meet Josh at 2:00. It turned out that Josh wanted me to interview him in the clubhouse. Court took us down to the clubhouse where Josh was waiting for us on a couch and eating a chicken wing. Players were just wandering around the clubhouse while I sat next to Josh on the couch and interviewed him. It was really neat.
Here is the interview:
Me: How did your faith help you get through your struggles a few years ago?
Josh: I found out that was the only way I could get through struggles. I tried for so long to do everything on my own, to get better on my own. But I couldn’t do it by myself, so ‘til I actually sought out God and relied on God, it wasn’t going to work. That was how I got stronger.
Me: I go to Richardson East Church of Christ and I’m thinking about getting baptized this summer.
Josh: Give me some of that buddy. (Josh high-fived me.) I got baptized in ’06 before my first year in the major leagues. I got baptized with my oldest girl. So I got saved…
(Josh’s wife called him. After he got off the phone, Josh said his mouth was burning up from some spicy chicken he was eating when we arrived. He got up to get a bottle of water.)
Me: When and why did you become a Christian?
Josh: I became a Christian when I was 18 years old, after I got drafted and I went off to start playing baseball. I felt like during that summer that something was missing. I grew up going to church but never accepted Christ. When I was 12 years old I started playing AAU baseball and started traveling around a lot. I kind of got away from the church scene and really trying to live for the Lord. So when I was 18, I accepted Christ in my uncle and aunt’s living room in North Carolina.
Me: What was going through your mind when you kept having all those setbacks?
Josh: I felt like things were kind of getting hopeless. I didn’t have any hope in my life. I felt like I was never going to be able to get it. Like I said before, I was trying to do it all on my own. When you have a relationship with Christ, he can get you through anything. So I didn’t have that. I was wondering what was missing. Since I was saved, people ask me ‘How can you have gone through all this stuff after you’d accepted Christ?’ I just tell them, I didn’t know how to grow spiritually. I didn’t know how to get into the Word and how to pray. I didn’t know how to fellowship with other Christians. Satan doesn’t have much to lose when you’re not a child of God. He comes at you a whole lot harder when he knows you’re a child of God than if you’re not.
Me: I read the article in Sports Illustrated on the way here and it says that James 4:7 helped you get through it.
Josh: Yep, ‘Humble yourself before God and resist the Devil and he will flee from you.’ Anytime I start to have old feelings of my past, I would just say that. And I’ve said it so many times, it became second nature really. And of course that was really one of the first scriptures I memorized. It’s kind of weird it was that one. That’s what I’m saying – God knows your heart and He knows what you’re struggling with and He’ll put in front of you what you need to hear.
Me: What advice would you give to young people who may be going through the same things you went through?
Josh: It’s about choices. It’s about choices I make. If I make good choices, the majority of the time I’m gonna have good consequences or no bad consequences. Sometimes you will, but if I make bad choices, most of the time they’re going to have bad consequences attached to them. People, places and things – that’s what my parents taught me. If I’m not doing what certain people are doing, if I hang around them long enough, I’m going to start doing those things. Same thing with places. I might not be doing what they’re doing in those places but if I keep going to those places, I’m gonna end up doing what they’re doing. Just surround yourself with good people who want to see you do well. You’ll know who those people are.
Me: When the Devil Rays let you go in the Rule 5 draft, what was your first thought?
Josh: They had told me that if they had any inclination that anybody was going to pick me up, they were going to put me on the 40-man (roster). I guess they didn’t have any inclination. Talk about God’s plan. We don’t know what it is. I was with the Devil Rays. I got drafted and went through those things with that team. Then they had a change of ownership and it was like opening the door again. They contacted me and said ‘We want you to still be a part of this team, part of the picture, the future.’ I think that was God just allowing me to get my foot back in the door. Then he had a different plan after that and that was with the Reds last year. That’s where I needed to be my first year and Texas obviously is where I need to be my second year.
Me: Was it weird to get drafted by the Cubs and then go to the Reds or did you already know that when the Cubs got you?
Josh: I didn’t know it. They called and told me that they had taken me and I called all of my family and was all fired up. Actually, a scout had called me. The Cubs didn’t actually call me. About 20 minutes later I called back and said ‘Are you sure the Cubs took me?’ and he said ‘Change of plans – they had a deal before with the Reds’. So I had to call my family all again. It was pretty cool.
(Scott Feldman walked by and said hello.)
Me: What were your thoughts when Matt Murton made a sliding catch in your first major league at-bat?
Josh: He didn’t get the script. He was supposed to let that one drop. That’s baseball. He made a good play. But I was so excited, so happy just to be there compared to where I was a couple of years before that. I was grinning ear to ear even though I got out. The fans received me so well that it didn’t really matter whether I got a hit or not.
Me: What was it like when the players on the opposing teams gave you so much support like Michael Barrett and Craig Biggio?
Josh: It was a good feeling. It lets you know that there’s more to life than just the game of baseball. There are actual trials and things you go through. Professional athletes are human beings and going to have the same struggles as other people. So for those guys to give me support was tremendous, especially considering who was giving it. Those guys are pretty good players. It’s always good to get encouragement from guys and to give encouragement.
Me: What was the key to your success in your junior year, when you batted .636 and had an 11-2 record as a pitcher?
Josh: Having fun. I’ve been playing baseball my whole life so it’s one of those things where if I’m not out there having fun and enjoying it, I’m not going to do as well as I could. That’s the main focus.
(Doug Mathis walked by and said hello to us and we congratulated him on getting his first major league win as a starter.)
Me: Do you like pitching or hitting better? Why?
Josh: I’d have to say hitting because you’re getting to do it every day. Pitching – I’m not one to sit around for 3 or 4 days. But sometimes I do miss it. The competitive part of it – being on the mound and maybe controlling the game. But I just want to play every day.
Me: I pitch in little league and I like pitching better.
Josh: Do you?
Me: I’m in every play and I think I’m better at it.
My Dad: Grant just had a ballgame today. He won.
Josh: 9-2? Is that a read-in to tonight? Are we going to win pretty good?
My Dad: Well, the last time you guys talked before a game, you went 5-for-5. Maybe there’s a connection.
Josh: If it is, we’re going to have a meeting every day.
Me: I’m hoping for 6-for-6.
Josh: 6-for-6? Pressure’s on.
Me: What was it like to finally play in Tampa?
Josh: Weird. I figured that would be the first place I ever played a major league game but like I said, God’s got plans set up and, you know, it’s kind of weird – I’m glad in a way I don’t play there because it’s not a great place to play as far as seeing the ball.
Me: Yeah, especially as an outfielder.
Josh: Right. Hitting was kind of tough. It was just kind of weird. We’ll see how good their pitching is this time.
Me: Well you did well against them.
Josh: I did alright – I hit a grand slam. Yes! (fist pump) Excited about that.
My Dad: With your eyes closed.
Josh: Yeah. It was weird. Katie said she was praying for me during that at-bat.
(Josh then poked fun at Ramon Vazquez for having a sunburn on his back and shoulders and then Ian came by and said hello to me.)
Me: What are the three biggest differences between playing in Cincinnati and playing here?
Josh: My teammates – better, in a good way. The support I’ve gotten from the front office here has been really good. Probably I’m more comfortable here overall. My teammates help me feel that way. The fans help me feel that way.
Me: They’re both hitters’ parks.
Josh: Yeah. It’s weird because I hit more home runs on the road last year than I did at home I think. Or it was close. Hopefully when the weather gets really hot here, I’ll be able to start crushing balls.
(Rudy Jaramillo came by then and introduced himself.)
Josh: This is the man who makes it happen here – this is the hitting coach.
Rudy: You know how to hit?
Josh: But what’s your favorite position?
Rudy: And you know how to hit?
Josh: Hey, we all know how to do both when we’re younger.
(Then Joaquin Benoit came in and whistled twice through his teeth. He seems to like to whistle through his teeth.)
Me: What are the three toughest pitchers you’ve faced and why?
Josh: The toughest is Greg Maddux. He doesn’t throw very hard but his ball moves. It’s really tough. Scott Kazmir, Tampa Bay, is tough. Lefty who throws hard. I don’t know. I don’t like giving pitchers too much credit. I don’t know who the third one is. I’ll just go with two.
Josh (after I stopped to think about it): You thinking for me?
Josh: I usually like the tough ones. The tough ones are usually easier to hit.
My Dad: You faced Tim Wakefield yet?
Josh: Yeah. I like knuckle-balls.
My Dad: You face Pedro last year?
Josh: Yeah but he wasn’t throwing hard. He was only 87, 88.
My Dad: How about Brandon Webb?
Josh: I don’t even remember facing him. I remember facing him in spring training I think.
(Josh’s phone rang again and Court asked me to do just one more question.)
Me: And the last one is: what’s been the best game so far of your professional career and why?
Josh: Major league career?
Josh: I’d have to go with the 5-for-5 with 5 RBI’s (on May 16th against the Astros). It was definitely the funnest too.
My Dad: We were right behind home plate for that game.
Josh: Oh yeah? (He then acted like he just remembered that I asked him to go 6-for-6 and was feeling a lot of pressure.)
Me: Who was the pitcher for that game?
Josh: Chacon for Houston started and it was a blur after that.
That was the end of the interview. I thanked Josh for doing the interview and my dad gave Josh a copy of a Rangers program from last year where they did an article on me. Josh asked me to autograph it for him. Court then led us back to the center field offices. We said hello to Thad Levine on the way out. We then hung out in Arlington until that night’s game. Josh didn’t go 6-for-6 but he did hit a home run and get 3 RBI’s.
I would like to thank Josh again for doing this interview and Court for arranging it. It was one of the neatest experiences I’ve ever had. It was very nice of Josh to take up his time to do it. We’ve seen Josh at a lot of games and he’s one of the nicest baseball players I’ve ever seen. No player on the team stops and talks to fans and signs autographs more than Josh. He’s very busy right now because he’s getting a lot of attention and it was nice of him to take time to let me interview him.
Results of last week’s poll:
Poll continued until next week.
Come back next week for Tom Grieve Trade Analysis Part 7.