PHOENIX – Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton’s faith has been instrumental in his ability to deal with the tragedy at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington late last week. In many ways, he said it’s prepared him to handle the difficult times in his life, including Thursday’s passing of Brownwood firefighter Shannon Stone.
The 39-year-old fell over the left-field railing attempting to catch a foul ball thrown to him and his son, Cooper, by Hamilton.
“I don't know all of the answers to everything, but I have a relationship with God,” Hamilton said. “It's changed my life. In some ways, I feel like I was picked. In a lot of ways I feel like I was picked because in my situation I just happen to have faith. My family's handled it well also. It's been tough, but we've talked through some things and we've prayed a lot.”
Hamilton decided not to join Rangers representatives Nolan Ryan and Jim Sundberg at Monday’s funeral.
“Someone asked me last night if I was going to the funeral today,” said Hamilton, who addressed the tragedy in the first 10 minutes of his All-Star Game media availability on Monday and then took baseball questions. “I don't know Mr. Stone. I don't know his family, so I don't feel it's my place to be in an intimate setting such as that.
“I was also asked if I was going to reach out to the wife and son and family. I am, at the right time. As far as the grieving process as a family, I can't imagine what's going on with that. When I feel like the time is right and enough time has passed, I definitely will reach out and talk with his wife and little boy.”
Hamilton’s handling of the situation has impressed his teammates and the Rangers organization.
“I think Josh has done a great job of not internalizing what happened,” Michael Young said. “It was an accident. Tragic as it was, it was exactly that – an accident. Josh did nothing wrong. He shouldn’t change anything.
“I think the interaction between fans and players is one of the things that makes baseball special. I’m going to keep flipping balls in the stands to fans every chance I get. I’ve been very impressed with the way he’s relied on his faith in this. I think he puts it in the hands of a higher power. Because of that, he’s in a good place right now.”
Hamilton said he will still throw balls to fans, but will be a little more careful.
“It's going to impact and make a difference as far as throwing balls into the stands and reassessing the situation before you toss a ball up – where you’re tossing it to, how high up is it, all those things come into play,” Hamilton said. “It's just unfortunate. You take it for granted. It's an everyday occurrence. We do it a few times a day every day. You start taking things like that for granted.”
Hamilton reflected on what he called a “roller coaster” weekend. That included a walk-off home run to win Saturday’s game against the A’s, which included the traditional mobbing of his teammates at home plate.
“It was an emotional release not only for Josh, but for the rest of us,” Young said. “It was a tough couple of days. If you asked us or any of the guys that play for Oakland, baseball was not our top priority for those games in that series. Obviously, we’re thinking about a wife and a son. But once the game starts, we’re doing our best to focus on our jobs and trying to play baseball to the best of our ability. To have a bit of an emotional release, it was great for Josh and great for us."
Hamilton hopes the All-Star Game gives him and his wife Katie a chance to get away for a few days, enjoy himself and see so many friends from across baseball.
"I'd be lying to you if I said I haven't thought about what happened,” Hamilton said. “But I realize I can't do anything about it. It's good to be around these guys. I'm here with my wife. I get to spend some time with them."