BALTIMORE (AP) – Josh Hamilton expects it will take some time before he realizes the significance of becoming the 16th player in baseball history to hit four home runs in a game.
He does, however, appreciate how fortunate he was to be playing baseball at Camden Yards on Tuesday night as a member of the Texas Rangers. Because, before his epic performance against the Baltimore Orioles, Hamilton had to do something even harder than launching a quartet of two-run homers.
He needed to save himself from personal ruin.
Hamilton went from first-round draft pick by Tampa Bay in 1999 to out of baseball altogether because of drug and alcohol addiction.
He recovered and returned to the majors in 2007 with Cincinnati, and was traded to the Texas, where he has become a star — the AL MVP in 2010 — while still battling his addiction. He had a relapse before this season, but is off to a torrid start.
After going 5 for 5 with a career-high eight RBIs and setting an AL record with 18 total bases in the Rangers’ 10-3 win, Hamilton reflected on what his life was like before this unforgettable night.
“I think about what God’s done in my life, everything I did to mess it up,” he said. “To finally surrender everything and pursue that relationship with Christ on a daily basis and understanding when I don’t pursue it, I end up messing up. Understanding that what I’m doing and what God’s allowed me to do, coming back from everything I went through and allowing me to play the game at the level I play it, it’s pretty amazing to think about.”
Few players in the game today are playing at Hamilton’s level. He’s batting .406 and leads the majors with 13 homers and 36 RBIs.
That’s impressive, but not as mind-blowing as his heroics against the Orioles.
Hamilton homered off Jake Arrieta in the first and third innings, added another off Zach Phillips in the seventh and topped it off with a one-for-the-books shot against Darren O’Day. During the last at-bat, Hamilton took a mighty hack and missed, lined a foul into right-field seats and then sent an 0-2 pitch over the center-field wall.
“Amazing,” Texas manager Ron Washington said. “Josh came out tonight, and he wasn’t going to be denied. I know he can’t do it every night, but what you saw tonight, he’s capable of it.”
As he spoke to the media afterward, Hamilton wore a blue T-shirt emblazoned with “BEAST MODE.”
On this night, he was a beast with the bat.
“It’s like anything else — you do something good or something incredible happens, it takes a little bit for it to sink in,” Hamilton said. “I think when I get away from everybody and I have some time to myself, I think it might then.”
The last player to hit four home runs in a game was Carlos Delgado on Sept. 25, 2003, for Toronto against Tampa Bay. Two of the 16 players to hit four homers in a game did it before 1900.
“History was witnessed tonight,” Washington said.
As he walked to the plate in the eighth inning, Hamilton felt a sense of calm. He had never hit more than two home runs in a game, and he already had three.
“I just went up like it was any other at-bat because if I don’t hit one,” Hamilton reasoned, “I’ve still had a really good night.”
It got even better after he was circling the bases.
“I can say that was the worst pitch of my life,” O’Day said. “Worst pitch of my career, not of my life. Guy’s already got three bombs and I had him 0-2 and I throw it right over the middle. I couldn’t have soft-tossed it any better to him. I’d like that pitch back for sure. You can’t say enough about the day he had.”
Nor could Hamilton.
“Obviously it’s, other than being in the World Series, the highlight of my big league career,” he said. “I was saying after I hit two I’ve never hit three in a game before, and what a blessing that was. Then to hit four is just an awesome feeling, to see how excited my teammates got.
“It reminds you of when you’re in Little League and a little kid, and just the excitement and why we play the game. Things like that. You never know what can happen. It was just an absolute blessing.”
So is his career. Hamilton will become a free agent after this season, but that’s something he won’t deal with until the proper time.
“God gives me peace, man. I pray a lot. I want to be where he wants me to be,” Hamilton said. “If that’s Texas, I love it in Texas. And you know, I take it as far as day-to-day life, a one-day-at-a-time mentality not only for a recovering addict, but that should be for everybody. It’s one day at a time really because tomorrow is not promised and yesterday’s gone.”
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