It’s all illusion, the accolades, awards and accomplishments. These aren’t etched in stone, untouchable by time.
Seconds stop for nobody.
Perseverance is found on the field, never peace.
No matter the amount of success, or degree of failure, our competition will always return, different pitches and arm angles, different stances and strategies.
Adjustments become worthless, effort expended, and than, at breaking point, talent rises above, for a fortunate few.
Talent resides in the bloodlines, a priceless quantity, non-negotiable.
Talent absolves poor reads from the outfield, talent excuses improper mechanics, talent never betrays, even if the mind often does.
But, for all its worth, talent could never define who we are.
No matter how much we want it to.
A person isn’t sweet because his swing, nasty because his slider.
Substance and style are in a constant clash, forming our thoughts.
He’s out there, in the distance, seizing another opportunity to awe and entertain, closing the gap with ease, combining violent speed and hypnotizing grace, the thoroughbred.
It shouldn’t be that easy, for sight to be deceived.
Athletes become immortal in memory, escaping the mundane, into the prison of our imagination.
We form a surface, nothing more or less.
There are no scouting reports for people, strengths and weaknesses scribbled onto torn pages within a weathered binder, on record.
There are no projection systems, forecasting emotional shifts.
There’s only what we expect.
Josh Hamilton is a baseball player.
He can do everything the game requires, excelling.
They knew he’d be a special one, five tools perfected.
He was a first overall draft pick, in a cocoon, his parents traveling with him on the road, attending his minor league games.
This is what he had, his parents and baseball.
This is who he was, an empty palette of possibilities, capable of anything.
One night, after a game, Hamilton’s parents were involved in a car accident. They were forced to depart from their son, while recovering.
Josh’s schedule continued, despite this rupture in a blissfully simple life.
There was pressure, to be the next one, to completely conquer the minor leagues.
He’d need support and reassurance, something beyond what a fundamentally cruel game could ever provide.
Yet, all he had left was baseball.
And than, all of the sudden, he couldn’t play.
Hamilton was injured, his malady requiring a lengthy sabbatical away from the field.
Who was Josh Hamilton, removed from the safety of white lines?
Here he was, a prodigy without an instrument, sitting alone in hotel rooms, rehabbing in solitude, discovering he may have been alone all along.
He found friends, someone to be.
They hung out in a tattoo parlor, somewhere to go.
He’d been told all his life limitations didn’t apply to him. He was different. He had to be.
He could do no wrong.
So he did.
Josh Hamilton nearly threw it all away, submitting to temptation. He nearly wasted his potential.
But what were these things to Hamilton, beside words?
What were the Major Leagues, beside a dream?
What was baseball, beside a game?
What was his talent, beside a gift he didn’t even ask for?
Living a dream can create nightmares.
Nothing’s real in dreams.
He was forced to find himself, from the depths.
He’d fallen. No official scorer could ever overturn that.
Anything can set him off now, a faint scent, a taste, a memory.
He has to fight constantly to stay clean. When the glamour subsides, when quiet invades, he needs to maintain strength.
This isn’t a battle determined by talent, but will.
He can still be great.
Hamilton made the Reds this Spring Training, his batting average incredible, despite a significant absence from the game he loved.
The Reds had taken a risk, and Hamilton had made their roster.
They pen stories now, writing of a reclamation project, an example to the youth, a symbol for hope, they cultivate an idea of Josh Hamilton, a fragmented figure.
Maybe we can finally realize talent isn’t a savior, see beyond preconceived notions.
Maybe we can stop being so shocked and outraged, cease expecting such perfection.
Maybe we can finally try to understand.
Maybe Josh Hamilton can be the last thoroughbred.
– Matt Waters