Beyond Belief: Finding the Strength to Come Back

Beyond Belief: Finding the Strength to Come Back

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by Josh Hamilton, Tim Keown

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Josh Hamilton was the first player chosen in the first round of the 1999 baseball draft. He was destined to be one of those rare "high-character " superstars. But in 2001, working his way from the minors to the majors, all of the plans for Josh went off the rails in a moment of weakness. What followed was a 4-year nightmare of drugs and alcohol, estrangement from


Josh Hamilton was the first player chosen in the first round of the 1999 baseball draft. He was destined to be one of those rare "high-character " superstars. But in 2001, working his way from the minors to the majors, all of the plans for Josh went off the rails in a moment of weakness. What followed was a 4-year nightmare of drugs and alcohol, estrangement from friends and family, and his eventual suspension from baseball.

BEYOND BELIEF details the events that led up to the derailment. Josh explains how a young man destined for fame and wealth could allow his life to be taken over by drugs and alcohol. But it is also the memoir of a spiritual journey that breaks through pain and heartbreak and leads to the spectacular rebirth of his major-league career.

Josh Hamilton makes no excuses and places no blame on anyone other than himself. He takes responsibility for his poor decisions and believes his story can help millions who battle the same demons. "I have been given a platform to tell my story" he says. "I pray every night I am a good messenger." Also, as part of the paperback edition of BEYOND BELIEF, Josh's journey has been updated to include developments in his recovery.

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THE MAN WATCHED silently, his arms crossed. He sat directly behind home plate, halfway up the concrete bleachers, a lone figure in the West Raleigh Exchange ballpark. I didn't know who he was, or why he was there, but occasionally I'd catch my daddy glancing up at him from his spot on the field. They'd exchange polite nods like two men sharing a secret language.

I was practicing with my brother Jason's team, like I always did. The team, made up of eleven- and twelveyear- olds, was coached by our father, Tony Hamilton. I was six at the time, almost seven. I ran around shagging balls and getting to hit at the end of practice. Jason — whom I always called "Bro" — was always encouraging to me when he probably could have told me to stay home or at least stay out of the way.

The day the man sat in the stands, I made a diving catch in the outfield that nobody could believe. I was running from right- center toward center field and diving till my body was parallel to the ground as I caught a ball about six inches off the ground.

I was six years younger than most of the players on Jason's team, but I could do things on the field they couldn't do. I lived to play ball, and I had precocious ability from the time I picked up a ball. Bro and I would play in the yard or across the street at the cemetery, and I refused to accept our age difference as a valid reason for his superiority. I couldn't beat him — he's four years older than I am, and four years is a huge age difference for a long, long time — but I always thought I could. Whatever we played, whether it was basketball or wiffle ball, I went into every game convinced this was going to be the day.

The time I spent practicing with Jason's team was my favorite time of the week. My team, at the coach- pitch level, was not a challenge. When the season started, I was the typical little boy, thrilled to put on his baseball clothes and get to the season's first practice. Once I got there, though, I was disappointed that my teammates couldn't keep up.

My daddy coached my team, too, and my momma always came to our practices. After the second or third practice of my coach- pitch team, once we were in the car and nobody could hear, they told me they could tell I was easing up on my throws and maybe not swinging as hard as I could when I was taking batting practice.

"I don't want to hurt anybody," I told them.

They shook their heads. "You play the way you know how to play," Daddy said. "Those other boys need to get used to catching balls that are thrown hard, and if you start trying to hit the ball so it won't hurt anybody, you're going to get into bad habits that'll be hard to break. You need to be a leader and they'll catch up."

When I thought about it, I realized that Jason didn't let up on me when we were playing together, and he was four years older. These guys were my age, so maybe they would get better and learn to react the way I did.

The next practice I threw as hard as I could, and it resulted in some missed throws and some tears. I got up there and hit the way I would if I was playing in the cemetery with Bro, and my teammates kept moving back till there was nobody in the infield. The parents watching shook their heads and started talking and laughing among themselves. They'd never seen such a little person do the things I could do.

As we got closer to the start of the coach- pitch season, the parents started to wonder whether I could be moved up to a more advanced level. There was nothing malicious about their concern; a move would help everybody involved. They were equal parts amazed and afraid — amazed at the speed at which I could throw the ball and the power with which I could hit it, afraid that their lessadvanced sons might find themselves unprepared and in the way of one of my throws or hits.

I could hear them up there, telling grandparents and friends, "That kid's going to hurt somebody." By the time I was six, I could throw the ball about 50 mph, probably twice as fast as most of the kids my age. The parents' concerns were legitimate, and they were never malicious or angry. In fact, they were very supportive of my quest to leave the team sponsored by Hamilton Machine — a business owned by my dad's cousin — and move up to play with my brother. The sooner the better, as far as they were concerned, since they believed it was just a matter of time before one of their boys lost a few teeth or got a concussion.

Their fears became real in our first game, when I fielded a ball at shortstop and threw it across the infield as hard as I could to get the runner. There was a problem, though — the first baseman either never saw the ball or didn't react fast enough to catch it. He stood there with his glove turned the wrong way as the ball smacked into his chest. He went down like a sniper got him, and I think he started crying before he hit the ground. I felt terrible.

*   *    *

The mystery man in the concrete bleachers stayed till the end of practice. Afterward, he came down and talked to my daddy. They walked off to where no one could hear them and spoke for a few minutes. There was some talk among the older kids in the dugout that he was there to see me, but I couldn't tell whether they were fooling with me.

When the discussion was over, my daddy and the man shook hands and the man walked to his car. We carried the equipment to the truck and waited. When Daddy climbed into the cab he looked straight ahead and said, "Well, Josh, that man I was talking to is the president of the whole Tar Heel League. He drove all the way from Charlotte to watch you play. He heard about you and needed to see for himself. And, well, you're on Jason's team now."

I guess you could say that was the first time I'd been scouted. I was six years old, closing in on seven, and Bro was eleven. In the Tar Heel League, his team was the equivalent of majors in Little League, and everyone on Bro's team was somewhere between fifth and seventh grade.

Until I showed up. When that happened, the team had acquired a first- grader.

I later learned the Tar Heel League had never done something like this before. The local board couldn't decide to do something that drastic, and the parents' complaints had traveled all the way to the top. The president decided he needed to see me before he made a ruling, and his decision made everyone in our pickup truck happy. I got to play on the same team with my Bro, and my daddy had to coach only one team.

I think it made everyone on my old Hamilton Machine team happy, too. They thought it was cool someone from their team got moved up, and they didn't have to worry about catching one in the teeth.

It wasn't all perfect, as my daddy found out soon enough. At our first game, after the lineup was posted in the dugout, I had a question.

"Daddy, why you battin' me last?" I asked in my sixyear- old southern accent.

"'Cuz you're the youngest one, that's why."

I didn't like that answer, and every game I said something when I saw my name in the ninth spot in the order. "Come on, Daddy, what are you batting me last for?" He never budged, though. That nine spot always had the same name: J. Hamilton.

In my mind, the team's worst hitter hits last, and I wasn't the worst hitter on the team. I turned seven in May and two weeks later, I hit my first real home run. A twelve-year-old named Larry Trantham was pitching, and he threw me a fat one over the middle of the plate. The ball hit the bat square, right on the sweet spot of the barrel, and I drove it over the fence in left- center. It's hard to explain, but on contact, I felt nothing. It's one of the best feelings in the world.

*   *    *

Life in the Hamilton household revolved around family and baseball. You couldn't tell where one started and the other stopped — not on a dare.

I wasn't a bad student, but given the choice between playing ball and memorizing parts of speech, I wanted the ball.

It was a family tradition. My parents, Linda and Tony, met at a ballpark. My daddy was warming up for a softball game on one diamond while my momma was playing a game on a field next to him. He looked over once and saw her hit a ball about fifty feet beyond the left-field fence, and everyone on his team just shook their heads and pointed to the spot where the ball landed. The next time up, the same thing happened, except the ball went even farther.

At this point, my daddy had seen enough. He walked over to her field and told someone, "I've got to meet that girl." He did, and within weeks they were dating and before long they were married.

My father grew up on his family's hog and chicken farm in Oxford, North Carolina, about forty miles north of our house in a rural area west of Raleigh. Momma grew up in the house next door to us, on the same piece of property about fifty yards away from our front door.

Like everyone in this part of the world, we were surrounded by pine forests. To this day, I know I'm home more by the smell of those trees than anything else. Across the street there's an old, small cemetery where we used to run around and hit baseballs or golf balls, maybe shoot our BB guns. Five or six years ago someone was buried in an old family plot, but when I was growing up there wasn't much action there. Down the road a huge piece of land is owned by North Carolina State University, and our favorite fishing hole was on it, not more than a threeminute walk from the house.

We were never more than a mile from a good fishing hole.

It was a good childhood. We weren't rich, but I don't think we knew that. I don't think Jason and I knew what rich was. We played ball and went to school and pretty much had the run of the place. We hung out as a family and didn't see much need to go out, even as we reached high school age. We were pretty content in our little corner of the world. We had everything we needed.

My grandmother on my mother's side lived right next door to us, in the same house my momma grew up in. This was the place Bro and I went to be spoiled with cookies and ice cream and grilled- cheese sandwiches. Mary Holt is an old- fashioned southern lady, more of a friend than an authority figure. My nickname from the time I started playing baseball was "Hambone" and I called Granny "Grambone." If we got in trouble at home, we'd always find our way over to Granny's house to escape. Whatever we had done to get in trouble didn't seem like such a big deal to her. She was the safe haven, and it was a role she enjoyed. I think she had a soft spot for me because I was the youngest and I shared her name — Joshua Holt Hamilton.

Granny never missed a ballgame. We didn't make a conscious effort to invite her to the games; it was just understood that she would be ready to come with us when it was time to go. My games, Jason's games — it didn't matter. She was there. Before every game, for good luck, I would walk over to where Granny and my momma were sitting and give each of them a kiss on the cheek.

From the time we started playing baseball, one of the major lessons we learned in our family was to respect the game. And a big part of respecting the game was respecting the people you play with and against. My daddy went out of his way to make sure he wasn't favoring his sons on the baseball field, and since I always wanted to please him and my teammates, I usually packed up all the gear after practices and cleaned the dugout after games.

My ability drew more attention to me, but I always put pressure on myself to go beyond people's expectations. I didn't want to be treated differently because I was a good player; I loved to play the game, but it didn't mean anything beyond that.

My parents taught us to be humble. My mom was an awesome slow- pitch softball player, one of the best in the area. She played first base and pitched, and the tales of her hitting exploits are repeated to this day. People around Raleigh who watched her play swear she could hit a softball four hundred feet.

Our parents raised us on the idea that a ballfield was the best place to be. They believed that sports keep kids out of trouble and headed in the right direction, whether they pick up a ball after high school or not. My daddy loved sports and played baseball, but he grew up in a family that felt it was much more important to work on the farm than to do something frivolous like playing ball. The demands of work limited his opportunities to play sports, but he played whatever he could whenever he could — baseball, softball, football, martial arts.

My daddy is big and strong, country strong, with forearms like pillars and shoulders wide as a doorway. He never had any formal strength training, but he set the unofficial YMCA bench press record in Raleigh with a lift of 540 pounds.

His limited opportunity to play sports made him determined to make sure we were able to take advantage of every possible opportunity.

My daddy coached Jason and me until we got to high school, and he wasn't the type of dad/coach who let us do whatever we wanted. His teams were disciplined. He made us keep our shirts tucked in, and he preached accountability, making sure we never left our bats or any other equipment for someone else to pick up.

We rarely crossed him, but once when I was eleven I didn't run hard enough to first base on a popup and he got all over me. We were playing some kind of championship game, and he told me I embarrassed him on the field. He never stayed mad, but I knew better than to do it again. From then on, I ran out every ground ball and every popup like my hair was on fire.

I was never pressured to play ball. The perception of my parents as hard-driving stage parents was never accurate. I played because I loved to play, and because I was good at it. If I had told my parents that I didn't want to play baseball, I honestly think they would have been fine with that. They would have been surprised, but they would have thrown themselves into whatever activity I chose to replace it.

They made sacrifices for us. Jason and I knew it at the time, but I don't think we completely understood the level of sacrifice until we got older. Daddy was, and is, a hard worker who got up early in the morning to go to his job as a supervisor for the Wonder Bread factory in town. Momma worked for the North Carolina Department of Transportation. She washed our clothes after dark, when the utility rates were lowest, so we could save money to spend on gas and food for our baseball trips.

My daddy always made sure he had a flexible enough schedule to work around my baseball games. To do this, sometimes he had to go to work at some ungodly hour so he could get his work finished in time to leave for the game. I would hear him leaving the house at three or four in the morning during the summer after we had gotten home after midnight from an AAU baseball tournament somewhere in the state. His bosses, in general, were understanding and appreciated his devotion to both his job and his family.

He got a new boss when I was twelve, the summer after I finished playing in the Tar Heel League and started playing traveling AAU ball in the summer for a team in Raleigh. One Friday my daddy did what he always did when the schedule got tight: He got to work at 2:00 a.m. so he could leave by noon and drive me three hours to a game.

As he walked to the time clock to clock out for the day, this boss stopped him.

"Tony, where are you going?"

"Got a ballgame," my daddy said. "I'm done for the day."

"You know, I need you here this afternoon. You need to stick around."

My daddy explained the arrangement he had with the bosses at the factory. As long as he completed his work for the day and it didn't cause any disruption — and it wouldn't have in this case — then he was free to go. He was a dedicated worker and went out of his way not to cheat anybody.

The new boss wouldn't hear any of it. He repeated his desire to have my daddy stick around for the rest of the afternoon. At this point, my daddy felt he was being tested, challenged just to see how he would react. This was not always a smart move for the person doing the challenging. My daddy just stood there with his timecard in his hand, waiting for his boss to make the next move.

"Tony, I've got a question for you: What's more important, the ballgame or your job?"

My daddy didn't hesitate at all. He didn't answer him directly, but he looked this new boss right in the eye and slid his timecard into the clock until it clicked. He put the card back in the slot, calmly walked out of the factory and never worked another day for Wonder Bread.

Continues ...

Copyright © 2008 by Josh Hamilton

Meet the Author

Josh Hamilton is an outfielder with the Los Angeles Angels and perennial Major League Baseball All-Star. Drafted by the Tampa Bay Rays in 1999, he made his Major League debut with the Cincinnati Reds who then traded him to the Texas Rangers where he played for 5 seasons including trips to the World Series in 2010 and 2011. He is a five-time MLB All-Star and won the AL Most Valuable Player Award (MVP) in 2010. In the offseason he lives in Texas with his wife Katie and their four daughters.

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Beyond Belief: Finding the Strength to Come Back 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 237 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I've read upwards of thirty to forty Baseball books, this one is the best. I could not put it down, i finished it in a little over a day. Very gripping, inspirational, powerful, and emotional. I wish more big leaugers were like Josh! A huge breath of fresh air in a sport searching desperately for some!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was great and truely one of the best books I have ever read. The top prodegy in the game of baseball gets selected number one overall and is on the shortpath to the major leagues. God has a different plan for Josh though and a few years into the minor leagues, Josh is introduced to drugs and alcohol and they take over his life. Josh is in a spiritual warfare between God and the devil before he realizes the light and turns to God for help. Josh is now one of the best players in the game and is completely sober. Everything about this was great. I could not put the book down once I started reading it. Josh's story is one of the saddest and most joyful things to hear about. At times I felt so bad for his struggling addiction and problems that it made me very sad. The overall story from begining to end, was the most inspirational thing I have ever read. I would suggest this book to just about everyone, from people struggeling with drug addiction to athletes around the world. People need to hear Josh's story and how the power of God can overcome anything!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Josh Hamilton is a great baseball player from North Carolina. He was the first round draft pick in 1999. He blew his million-dollar bonus on drugs and alcohol addictions. Josh played baseball for two teams before he went to the Texas Rangers, where he is now playing great. He got in to a car accident when he first got there and screwed up his back. He would hang out with his friends at a tattoo shop, there is where he had his first drink, and as they say, only one drink can get you hooked. He also got tattoos to get his mind off the pain in his back. He would have dreams about baseball. He had one that he was in homerun derby and the only thing he did not know in the dream was how many homeruns he hit. That night he woke in the middle of the dream, went to his grandmother's house, and asked her to help him. In the year of 2009, he hit in the State Farm Homerun Derby and hit 28 homeruns in the first round a new record. He did not win the derby but he gave it a heck of a run. In my honest opinion, I love this book because it will help me down the road in life and may help you. I consider everybody that has had a problem with drugs or an alcohol addiction to read this book because it might tell you something and you could turn your life around for good. In conclusion, Beyond Belief is a great story and a great story to read. If you like baseball and heard of Josh Hamilton but not his story I suggest you read this book. It is GREAT! The book Beyond Belief is a great book and I love it. If I were you I would read it you will love it. One the best baseball players in the game right now has an incredible story to tell you so stop watching television and read a book for once. I prefer you read Beyond Belief by Josh Hamilton.
PDN2N More than 1 year ago
I totally enjoyed this book. I live in Texas where Josh plays for the Rangers; maybe that made it a little more interesting for me. However, his story has a very powerful message for everyone to hear. I highly recommend this book.
Grago More than 1 year ago
The story of Josh Hamilton takes two parts: You need to talk about the amazing athletic talen he posesses, and how that translated into him becoming the hottest prospect in baseball, eventually becoming an American League All-Star outfielder for the Texas Rangers. Then you need the other half of Josh Hamilton: The drug addict, tattoo-wearing, dark side that he confronts for much of the content of this book. It's well written, with Hamilton and co-author Tim Kweon masterfully capturing the frightening and secret life of a man who gives over fully to his darkest urges, then pulls his life together thanks to family and faith to achieve his greatest dreams. It's a scary book. There are parts definitely not for the faint of heart. But that's the adventure Josh takes us on, and it's not your daddy's baseball book. If you know someone who likes baseball and James Frey books, this is for them.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
My husband bought this book for himself and I was thumbing through it one night. Ended up staying up until 2 AM reading it. The thing I enjoyed the most about this book was the complete honesty that Josh lays on the table for everyone to read. There is NO sugar coating the events of this part of his life. A must read...Truly memorable
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love this book josh is my favirot player i learned so much about him. GO RANGERS
QMS More than 1 year ago
The Book "Beyond Belief: Finding the Strength to Come Back" by Josh Hamilton and Tim Keown is an amazing book about the success and comeback of Josh Hamilton. Josh Hamilton went from being the number one draft pick to being hooked on illegal drugs. This book tells the whole story from Josh's point of view and how hard it was to see his parents suffer knowing that he was on drugs and struggling to get clean. This book is one of the greatest success stories of our time and should be read by all.
mtnbiker More than 1 year ago
I could not put this book down. It is a very entertaining story of an incredible baseball talent and I enjoyed the stories of Josh's baseball successes as a boy growing up in N.C. Very few players have possessed this type of God-given talent. But then, the book so vividly displays how Satan seeks to use temptations and our weaknesses to destroy us, but more importantly how Christ helped Josh overcome and find victory. What a roller coaster - from an incredible talent, to the depths of despair, to a man that is now using his skills and story to glorify God and give people hope. I bought five more books and gave them to the seniors on my son's high school baseball team. They all read the book in less than a week and loved it.
Boogie10 More than 1 year ago
This is one of the very few books i've read. i'm 16 years old and hate reading but love sports books. this book is very, very inspiring, and touching. Great book for encouragement and people who love sports books. I recommened this book for all ages and anybody else who likes inspiring books. All i can say is this book is INCREDIBLY FANTASTIC!!
Ellison More than 1 year ago
In his search for friends he finds some folks that are not very friendly. So goes the tale of physically gifted Josh Hamilton who loses about four years of his life to drugs. His dad says the saddest thing is so many people missed out on what he could have accomplished. He did go out and do some amazing things. Could have done a lot more. Could possibly have been the best.
zmeeds More than 1 year ago
This amazing book has showed me the deepest depths of extreme drug addictions and how Josh Hamilton dealt with his life threatening flaw. It is hard to believe that anybody associated with drugs could have ever been drafted straight out of high school as the first overall pick for the MLB. Josh Hamilton grew up in North Carolina, and began playing baseball at a young age. By age 13, Josh was already being peered by scouts from the MLB and colleges all around the country. The day after graduation, Josh was on his way to Florida to sign with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, but this vast change in his life triggered an unborn side of his personality. Josh Hamilton found him self tangled up with drugs and alcoholism that took him out of the sport of baseball for four long years, until he found the strength to come back with the love and support of his family. The variety of messages in the book were very influential, and that is big reason why I enjoyed this biography, it opened my eyes to more ways I can believe in myself to accomplish anything. Unlike the last book I have read "Room Full of Mirrors" by Charles R. Cross, the biography of Jimi Hendrix taking a stupid and immoral approach to living life; But don't get me wrong, Jimi was a great musician and it was an interesting book (highly recommended), but his life was cut short because his addiction to drugs and alcohol. He didn't find the strength like Josh Hamilton did, to perform at what he was good at, with out poisoning himself. I would highly recommend "Beyond Belief" to any body that's ready to enlighten their lives and their way of thinking. If its finding the hope to become sober from alcohol or drug abuse, or believing in yourself to accomplish bigger, better things, or even a motivation to keep your head on straight, to avoid the dangers that can completely destroy your life in a heartbeat. This writing could never be the same with out having Josh Hamilton and Tim Keown writing it together. Josh's amazing story was put into such specific detail, that the imagery made it feel like you were in his shoes, feeling his pain, his disappointment, and most of all, the embarrassment of being addicted to drugs.
Madstick More than 1 year ago
This book is a must read for anyone that considers themself a baseball fan, and anyone who knows or loves someone that is addicted to drugs. Josh Hamilton is a walking miracle, and it would be a shame for anyone to not hear his story. It will inspire anyone. Also it is an easy read - very relaxing.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I absolutely LOVE this book! Greatly written and a great help when your struggling with life!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Excellent book even if you don't follow baseball. My husband doesn't usually read books, but wanted something for a long car ride. It was so good, he couldn't put it down. I decided to read it myself and loved it also.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Once again Josh is at a crossroad. Pray he listens to what is in HIS best interest.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
djurn More than 1 year ago
INSPIRING  This book is about the struggles of being a number one overall pick and the choices that need to made daily to stay ahead of the game.  The greatest message received from Hamilton's story is to never give up. He went from being the best player in the draft, to addicted to drugs, then to an MLB super star because he never gave up. What I enjoyed about this book is that the toughest times were not left out. It felt like you were in the car with him on the way to the crack house. The one thing I disliked was that it consumed my time too much, I was not able to put it down!! I highly recommend this book to baseball players to show them real life struggles of pursuing a dream that is common among many of us. 
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I asked the queston should i get the book?i just red the frew answer is yes
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