Josh Hamilton, Clay Council Heroes Tonight

Robert McGeeSenior Writer IJuly 14, 2008

I very rarely stray from hockey talk, but I’m making an exception for this article. There is a local hero doing the right thing tonight and it deserves recognition.

Several years ago, Josh Hamilton made a promise to his American Legion batting practice coach back while he was still in high school. Most of us would have forgotten about it or deemed it unnecessary to keep at this point, but Hamilton didn’t forget.

About three weeks ago he contacted his old coach, Clay Council, to see if the old friend who used to toss batting practice had anything left in that rubber arm of his. The 71-year-old accepted Hamilton’s invitation and is expected to throw for him in tonight’s All-Star home run derby.

You see, the promise was that if Hamilton ever made it to the home run derby, he would take Council along to pitch to him.

That moment probably seemed like a lifetime ago to one of the current American League’s leading candidates for MVP honors, but the slugger wasn’t able to turn his life around by taking promises lightly.

After being the first selection of the 1999 MLB draft, Hamilton suffered one horrible injury after another, only to sink into the deep, dark abyss of drug abuse. But thanks to faith and hard work, he has risen above all of his old demons and is now on top of the baseball world.

Tonight he will step back in time to when Council used to throw to him on the well-used turf in Cary, North Carolina. They both have evolved since then, from a typical volunteer coach tossing batting practice to a promising youngster, to one hero pitching to another hero on a world stage.

I wouldn’t bet against Hamilton winning it tonight.