“It’s a bad night to be an atheist...”

Last night I had the privilege of watching a wonderful story unfold at, of all places, the home run derby at the Major League Baseball All-Star game. The first round provided all viewers—at home or in Yankee stadium—with a remarkable display of skill and power as Josh Hamilton hit 28 home runs, at least three of them over 500 feet. “So what?” you may be asking. Well, Josh Hamilton’s story is a lot bigger than baseball. Follow this link for more detail in his own words or this link for a long article in Sports Illustrated. Read on for a synopsis.

In 1999, Josh, a high school senior, was the first player chosen in the MLB amateur draft. He was a “five tool player” and considered by many professional scouts to be “the best baseball player I’ve ever seen.” Instead of fulfilling his potential, he unbelievably squandered everything by abusing drugs and alcohol until he was eventually kicked out of baseball. His path was ugly and his spiral down was harsh. But he came out of it. With a lot of family support and a renewed relationship with Jesus, he overcame his addictions and was eventually reinstated into baseball. This year he is an All-Star and last night his hitting display left everyone speechless (except Joe Morgan, but that is another bone to pick for another day).

Two things stood out to me last night. One, he chose his 71 year old former American Legion coach to pitch to him during the competition. To share the stage at that moment had to be a thrill for him and even though he threw over 80 pitches during the night (and may never recover), you could sense the moment was very special to both of them. The second thing that jumped out to me was the statement by Rick Reilly, one of the talking heads on ESPN (who just started at the four letter network after a long career at SI). During the first round onslaught he mentioned where Josh came from and how remarkable it was. He was a “former heroin and cocaine user, three years out of baseball, has a spiritual rebirth and is now hitting bombs in Yankee Stadium with all the fans chanting his name. It’s a bad night to be an atheist.” I can’t add to that...

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