Major league demons

hamiltonbookYou might remember the unbelievable story of Texas Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton. He's the guy who had the unbelievable performance at last year's Home Run Derby. It wasn't just that he had a first-round record -- crushing 28 home runs in the first round and at one point hitting 13 home runs in 13 swings. But what was particularly noteworthy about the whole thing is that he's a recovering addict. And what puts this into GetReligion territory is his incessant discussion of his faith and how God saved him from a rather miserable life. So cut to a couple of weeks ago when Deadspins' A.J. Daulerio rather snarkily highlighted some pictures of Hamilton falling off the wagon:

Josh Hamilton claims he's been sober since October 2005. Since then he's rejuvenated his career, saved his marriage, devoted himself to Jesus, and become America's flawed, homer-derby hero. Last winter, while he was alone in Tempe, Arizona, Hambone kinda slipped.

But that's where the story gets interesting. I wanted to highlight two mainstream pieces that handled the situation well. Here's ESPN on the day the news broke:

Texas Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton acknowledged a January bar incident Saturday in which he became drunk and was photographed with several women, not including his wife, in lurid poses in Tempe, Ariz.

"I'm embarrassed about it. For the Rangers, I'm embarrassed about it. For my wife, my kids," Hamilton said in Anaheim, Calif., before the Rangers played the Los Angeles Angels. "It's one of those things that just reinforces about alcohol.

"Unfortunately, it happened. It just reinforces to me that if I'm out there getting ready for a season and taking my focus off the most important thing in my recovery, which is my relationship with Christ, it's amazing how those things creep back in."

I like how it's a just-the-facts lede followed by some powerful quotes. The piece continues with important information about how the organization is handling the incident interspersed with quotes from Hamilton. One important piece of information is that the folks closest to Hamilton weren't surprised by the news. That's because he told his wife, his team and MLB higher-ups the next day. Here's an interesting quote from near the end of the article:

"I don't feel like I'm a hypocrite. I feel like I'm human," he said Saturday. "I got away from the one thing that keeps me straightened out and going in the right direction."

I also liked this piece from Sam Hodges at the Dallas Morning News. Hodges advances the story by asking the leaders of an evangelical ad campaign called "I Am Second" if Hamilton will still be featured in the campaign. He will. Hodges gets some good quotes from the leaders of the campaign and Hamilton:

Leaders of I Am Second were impressed by how he owned up, and made a "pretty easy" decision to stick with him, said Nathan Sheets.

"We had him in the lineup before. We're not going to take him down," said Sheets, vice president of Plano-based e3 Partners Ministry, the group behind the campaign. "This isn't about a bunch of perfect people."

Hamilton said through a team spokesman that he's not surprised that I Am Second leaders are standing by him.

"As a Christian, other Christians realize you are still going to make mistakes," Hamilton said. "But as a Christian, you learn from and get encouragement from other believers. They don't give up on you."

I've sort of had a revelation this week -- and yes, I know it's really obvious to most readers of this site -- that the mainstream media doesn't really get the Christian doctrines of sin and forgiveness. I knew that some people sort of caricatured Christians as people who think they're perfect, but I didn't realize how little is understood about what the church generally teaches about sin and forgiveness. Anyway, these were some good examples of stories that let sources discuss how these doctrines play out in real life.

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