This is not an All-Star Game throwback. However, today is the day we get to see the best All-Star Game event of any sport. So, we decided to give you one of the better Home Run Derby stories of all time. Let’s go back to 2008, when gas was below $2.00, Pluto was being denigrated from planet status, and Josh Hamilton was still a relatively unknown prospect whose past addiction problems created an unlikely success story that very few can rival.
Josh Hamilton was selected #1 overall in the 1999 draft by the Tampa Bay
Devil Rays as a can’t-miss prospect. Hamilton, though, never stepped onto a major league team’s baseball field until 2007. After toiling in the minors for 3+ years, Hamilton spent the next three out of baseball and in rehab facilities. Becoming addicted to pain killers after a major accident involving himself and his parents (where no one was seriously injured), Hamilton never checked back in with reality. The Rays, who felt like they had given Hamilton numerous opportunities to clean up his act, left him off of their 40-man roster after the 2006 season. This made him eligible for the Rule 5 Draft, in which any other team can select a player, but must agree to keep that player on their roster for the entirety of the season or they must sell back the player to the team he was drafted from. In this Rule 5 Draft, the Chicago Cubs chose Hamilton with the 3rd overall pick, but then immediately sent him to Cincinnati for $100,000. Can you say mistake? The Reds kept Hamilton on their roster for the year, and after a modestly played 90 games in which he hit .292 with 19 HRs and 47 RBIs, Hamilton was traded to the Texas Rangers for two players.
The Rangers, feeling like they had a steal, immediately made Hamilton their starting center fielder and placed him as their #3 hitter in the lineup. Things then began to really take off for Hamilton. After being selected for the All-Star team for batting .310 with 21 HRs and 95 RBIs (the 5th most ever at the time), Hamilton was notified that he had also been selected for the Home Run Derby. Already a fan favorite for his pleasant demeanor and lifelong fight versus addiction, Hamilton stepped into the batter’s box that July 14th evening in the Bronx and made history.
Although Hamilton did not go on to win the 2008 HR Derby (he lost in the finals to Justin Morneau), he was the real winner. He made everyone take notice of his strong will to overcome a disease, while also showcasing his natural ability to absolutely obliterate a baseball. Hamilton’s 28 dingers in the first round is the most ever for a HR Derby and may never be broken. Hamilton went on to make the next 4 All-Star teams, took home 3 Silver Slugger Awards during that time, and won the 2010 MVP Award. Before this season, Hamilton inked a 5 year / $125 million deal with the Los Angeles Angels. It’s safe to say that Hamilton has made the best of a terrible situation, using his addiction troubles as motivation, and making his life story a Disney feel-good movie waiting to happen.