He's the real-life Natural. His story is even more dramatic than the one Hollywood wrote for Robert Redford's character Roy Hobbs. And before his career is over, he may just knock the cover off a ball.
His name is Josh Hamilton, and for those who are not paying attention, the man is on his way to hitting .400 - not in the future, but this very season.
For those MLB aficionados, Vladimir Guerrero is having an amazing renewal, and putting up numbers that have surprisingly contributed to an "icing on the cake" nod for Cooperstown. The Texas Rangers are handsomely in first place, and cruising to the playoffs for the first time in memory. Things have changed. No one is taking notice (obviously A-Rod's 600th, 5 No-hit games and Ubaldo Jimenez are considerable distractions), but Josh Hamilton is changing the game. He has made, very quietly, the Texas Rangers a contender. LeBron James himself took a few seasons to become acclimated to the professional demands of the NBA, but now he is taking verifiable strides towards "living up to the hype." Josh Hamilton, on the other hand, has established that feat from the get-go.
The man is amazing. He has been hitting .400 since June 1, and has hit safely in 55 out of the last 61 games. Honestly? Honestly. And with 9 hits in his last 15 at-bats (as of July 29), his average continues to rise.
Risk versus reward. We hear that a lot these days, and perhaps no other player's salary personifies this scale better than Hamilton's. Was there a risk in signing Hamilton to a contract? Absolutely. Was there a potential reward that outweighed the risk? The Texas Rangers felt so, and Tampa Bay before them. Could they ever have imagined that their dreams would be realized? Probably not. Thus the paltry $3.25 million he is making this year - only a year removed from having demolished the record high in a homerun derby round, before a nation of adoring fans. Under all that pressure, and so new to the limelight! But he delivered, as expected. And he is delivering again, only in an unimaginable fashion - dominating a sport in which no man, at least in my lifetime, has dominated single-handedly and won it all.
But here Josh Hamilton is, with the Rangers on his back, as he trods through the forest of competition, fame, and the unknown. If he wins it all with Texas this year, he will become an overnight sensation. And as Roy Hobbs did before him, he will transcend the game from the field, into the homes of non-fans, who hear the call on radio and television and learn, by heart, this player's name.