Back in 1999, Josh Hamilton was the top pick in the baseball draft. Number one. He had all the tools to be one of the best players ever. He had speed, power, great fielding skills, and an incredible eye at the plate. He had a bright future.

Then he became addicted to crack and saw his future disappear. He admits that in those dark days of being a crack addict that there were many times he prayed his life would end, that he could finally be free of the guilt, depression and addiction.

That didn’t happen. After more than five years of addiction, Josh began to turn his life around. He did it by realizing that no matter how strong he was, he couldn’t do it without help – the help of his grandmother, his wife Katie, and ultimately Jesus. In an article with ESPN’s Tim Keown he called his return from drug addiction “a God thing.”

He returned to Major League Baseball with the Cincinnati Reds last year, playing well for a rookie. In the off-season he was traded to the Texas Rangers has become a regular player.

Every day he faces his demons. That’s admirable in itself. That addiction to crack cocaine doesn’t ever go away. He could have a bad day on the field, or fight with his wife, or his daughters could get on his nerves and the feeling could come upon him. Just one little taste of cocaine. One little snort and things will get better. That temptation, that lure will always be with Josh. Resisting it every day and making something of his life is something I applaud. It’s hard to do.

But this story gets better. Not only is Josh Hamilton playing for the Texas Rangers, he is starring for them. Today he is batting a robust .328 with a league-leading 15 homeruns and a league-leading 63 runs batted in. All those tools that he was throwing away a few years ago as he ravaged his body, treating it like we treat the wrapper on our candy bars, never really left him.

The fans notice it. Everywhere he goes, they line up to hear his story and to tell him their own. Church groups and recovery groups come to hear him speak, so much so that he filmed a DVD to help deal with the requests. He is second among outfielders in voting for the All-Star game. And he loves telling his story. He knows that he not just supposed to play baseball, that his life is a powerful example to tell others, and to encourage them that not all hope is lost.

It truly is a fantastic story.

Look at his wife, Katie. In his darkest days, when he was never home, when she waited up at night and worried about him and her two little daughters, when the emotional drain of loving a man who didn’t care about his own life felt like a sink hole, she could have left him. She could have walked away and none of us would have blamed her. Many of us would have encouraged her. Josh caused a lot of hurt, much of which we will never know they way she knew or felt deep down inside.

Jean-Jacques Taylor of The Dallas Morning News wrote of how she always prayed for Josh. “I’d go to bed, I’d swear that was the last time I was going to pray for him. I’m moving on and the next day I’d wake up with a new desire and strength to pray for him.” All the while she had to watch Josh ruin his life. But she stuck with him. That’s just as amazing as Josh’s recovery from addiction and realizing his potential on the field. A woman who kept praying for him. A woman who kept loving him. Even when he didn’t deserve it, even when he didn’t want it, even when she wanted to give up.

Some people are worth rooting for.

© Seth Crossman