A Powerful Psyche

Two days ago the Texas Rangers and The Ballpark in Arlington witnessed a terrible tragedy on an action that happens countless times at any given baseball game. Rangers' left fielder Josh Hamilton tossed a foul ball into the stands and a fan by the name of Shannon Stone, there with his young son, leaned over the railing in left field to catch the ball tossed by the now four time all star. Stone then lost his balance and fell over the railing 20 feet where he hit his head on the cement near the Oakland Athletics' bullpen. The fan later went on to pass away and numerous foundations have opened up in his honor to try and help his family through this very difficult time. Yesterday, the Texas Rangers held a moment of silence for Mr. Stone, and also wore black ribbons on their jerseys, along with the Athletics, in remembrance of him. Everyone involved was affected by such a horrible accident. The one person Texas Rangers fans cared about the most, as far as a baseball standpoint goes, is the psyche of Josh Hamilton. Hamilton has had very bad problems with drugs and alcohol in his past, but ever since joining the Texas Rangers he has cleaned up his act and is straight edge, much because of the help of his friends, family, teammates, and religion. Rangers' president Nolan Ryan said Hamilton was distraught in the locker room following the game and was unsure if Hamilton would play the next day. Ryan also held a press conference the following day to open the floor for questions from the media, many of which concerned the safety of the railing which Ryan said "exceeded code" making them plenty safe enough.

The day following this tragic accident Hamilton said he wanted to play, but the incident was still in his head. He was still going to continue to throw foul balls into the stands though, because that is "part of the experience of going to a ballgame" said Hamilton. Ryan backed up Hamilton's point by adding that many fans go to ballgames with their gloves in hand in anticipation that just maybe someone will throw a ball into the stands. A player can really make a fan's day by doing that. The chances aren't high that you are going to catch a foul ball when you attend a baseball game, but you never know and that's what makes it so much more exciting for the fans. The game following the accident tested Hamilton's psyche when he fouled off a pitch down the third base line that hit a spectator in the head. The fan was given stitches and was OK. Not something you wanted to see happen at the ballpark the day after such a tragic accident had taken place; much less would you want Josh Hamilton being the one to hit the foul ball. When trotting out to left field, one could notice Hamilton looking up to where the accident had taken place. If there is one player the Rangers need, it is the reigning AL MVP Josh Hamilton to keep themselves ahead of the Los Angeles Angels, whom the Rangers just can't seem to pull away from. The Rangers also had to worry about the scrappy Oakland team that was in town during this series, a team that had baffled the Rangers' bats in several previous meetings. Thanks to great pitching by Derek Holland the first game, and a stellar performance by all the offense in the second game, the Rangers were able to take the first two games in their series against the Athletics.

The third game against the A's was a constant uphill struggle. Colby Lewis had a very rocky 2nd inning throwing a lot of pitches early. Into the 5th inning the Rangers trailed 5-1. Then all of a sudden some life was breathed into the Rangers and it seemed like things were starting to fall their way. Facing former Ranger Brand McCarthy on the mound the first time through the lineup was anything but successful but the second time through the lineup was much better for the Rangers' hitters. Yorvit Torrealba singled on high chopper that clipped the top of McCarthy's glove and landed too far in front the 2nd baseman to make a barehanded grab and throw to first. Endy Chavez was up next and hit one right down the first base line, literally, right down the line. The ball hit the first base bag and scampered into shallow right field where it was mishandled by the first baseman. Torrealba went on to second and Chavez remained at first. Ian Kinsler the stepped up and doubled scoring Torrealba and advancing Chavez to third. To advance this along, Hamilton recorded his only out of the ball game but was rewarded with an RBI and with no one on base Adrian Beltre homered to knot the game up at 5. Tommy Hunter came in in relief and gave up a home run to Coco Crisp to put the A's ahead 6-5. Fast forward even more and the Rangers have two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning and what appears to be the makings of a loss. Elvis Andrus hit a routine ground ball to 2nd base, but the first baseman, Connor Jackson, was late getting to the bag, and the throw from the 2nd baseman was wide and Jennings, trying to keep himself in position on the bag, was ran over by Andrus successfully legging out yet another infield single for the Rangers. So, with the Rangers down 6-5 with a runner on first in the bottom of the 9th inning and two outs Josh Hamilton stepped up to the plate. Every boy in his backyard dreams of this situation. It is a chance to be the hero while all the pressure is on you, a scenario that truly tests the psyche of a player to see how they deal with such immense pressure. Hamilton took the first two pitches as they were called as balls. The third pitch though, he knew it as soon as it left his bat. Hamilton swung and hit a 450+ foot home run in walk-off fashion to defeat the Oakland Athletics. Hamilton was seen giving a big fist pump rounding first base and the proceeded to celebrate with his teammates as they mobbed him at home plate. So Hamilton returned to the clubhouse greeted by the popping of Sprite bottles in celebration of the Rangers' victory. When interviewed, Hamilton said that the family involved in the accident was still very much in his thoughts, and will continue to be there for a while.

Josh Hamilton proved that he is mentally strong in hitting that walk-off home run. So many things must have been going through his mind at the moment, but he managed to dig in and focus on hitting his pitch, and he hit it a ton to win the game for his team. He mentioned in his post-game interview that he actually envisioned hitting the home run and celebrating with his teammates. A bit interesting considering he only has had one previous walk-off home run in his career. Nonetheless though, Hamilton was able to accomplish this with the support of his teammates. In a celebration that usually calls for popping corks and being showered in champagne, Hamilton's teammates were unscrewing bottle caps and drowning him in Sprite. His teammates are with him every step of the way and they will help him get through this. His psyche seems to be just fine, which is good news for the Rangers who need to continue their winning ways to stay ahead of the Angles who won again tonight. As for tonight though, it seemed like it was just meant to be. Everything seemed to happen to for a reason and in the end, the Rangers got all the breaks they needed and had the reigning AL MVP up at the plate to win the game. It’s hard to say if everything that happened at the ballpark this past weekend has been for a reason, but as for right now none of us can really know what that reason is until much farther down the road. (Donations can be given to the Stone family through the Texas Rangers if anyone is interested.) Tonight though, everything seemed to happen for a reason for the Rangers to end up victorious off the bat of their man, the human shark, Josh Hamilton.

-Colby

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