12/10/2008 12:23 PM ET
A 'Beyond Belief' story of redemption
Rangers All-Star Hamilton details turn-around in his life
By Doug Miller / MLB.com
When Josh Hamilton blasted a record 28 long balls out of Yankee Stadium in the first round of the 2008 All-Star Home Run Derby, it was a mind-blowing athletic feat that was looked at in awe by fans of all sport.
It was also the culmination of an incredible comeback and the beginning of the next chapter in the outfielder's intriguing life story.
Hamilton has provided the world with many more chapters of that story in his new biography, "Beyond Belief" (Hachette FaithWords, 272 pages), which was co-written with ESPN The Magazine writer Tim Keown.
In it, Hamilton describes his well-documented journey from can't-miss Major League prospect and five-tool player who was selected first overall in the 1999 First-Year Player Draft to the lowest lows of drug and alcohol addiction to recovery and eventual stardom.
And while Hamilton could have taken the easy way out and sugar-coated the details, he didn't. According to Keown, the research for the book was as real as it gets.
"When people ask me why people respond to Josh's story more than they do to other people and wonder how a guy can go from wasting a lot of years and talent to being loved the way he is, it's a tribute to his honesty," Keown says.
"He's up-front about everything. He'll answer all the questions and do the interviews and be completely open about taking responsibility for what he's done and where he's been. And he doesn't blame anyone for what happened. He doesn't make excuses."
Hamilton was so up-front that he made a point of driving Keown around his hometown of Raleigh, N.C., to show him the places that colored his life experiences.
"We saw his Little League fields, and we drove past the drug dens and the trailer parks where he slept," Keown says. "He was unbelievable, just so open about his whole life, the bad stuff and the good stuff."
Fortunately for Hamilton and fans of the Texas Rangers, the center fielder's all about good stuff these days, and a big reason for that is his devotion to Jesus Christ, which also is discussed in detail in the book.
But Keown says "Beyond Belief" isn't necessarily a "religious book."
"I don't think Josh would say it is, either," Keown says. "And I don't necessarily think it's a baseball book or a substance abuse-and-recovery book. It's a story of one person's life and it happens to include baseball and it happens to include his faith. It's unavoidable, because faith is what he relies on to get him through every day. It's a very powerful force in his life.
"Religion is what turned him around when he was at the bottom and it had to be a very important part of the book to get the story across. He really leaned on his faith to get him through every day. And I would defy anyone to argue with the results at this point, because if someone comes back from being a crack addict to be a janitor or any type of contributing member of society, that's a huge thing in itself.
"But to come back in a profession where your successes and failures are in every newspaper in the country every day, to me, it's maybe unprecedented. I think it's incredible and that's why I wanted to do the book."
And once Keown saw that Home Run Derby, he, like everyone else looking on at Hamilton's amazing skills, knew he had the right subject.
"There have been times where you watch his family and they're emotional about stuff with Josh," Keown says. "But the Home Run Derby was the first time where they were sort of basking in the pure joy of his athletic ability rather than his story.
"It was just pure joy, and they, like a lot of us, were almost laughing because it was so ridiculous. It seemed so beyond anything that you could imagine."
Doug Miller is a Senior Writer for MLB.com/Entertainment. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.