ABC11 Report on ESPN Homecoming Filming

October 31, 2008

The ABC11 Sports blog has a story about the highs and lows of an atypical Thursday in North Carolina. The low? UNC’s Tyler Hansbrough is out indefinitely with a stress injury to his shin. Too bad – Hansbrough is a fun kid to watch play basketball. Definitely guts out on every play – he could be a hockey player. 🙂

The high? ESPN filming Hamilton’s return to Athens Drive High School. The ABC entry explains quite a bit more than I previously knew about the premise of the show. It basically follows an athlete through their life, with the help of the people who were there along the way. Seems like a great idea, and I think there are a lot of compelling stories out there beyond Hamilton.

Anyone who has read reviews or read Hamilton’s book, Beyond Belief, has heard the story about how Hamilton pawned his Rookie League Championship ring to buy more crack. That’s low. The producers of the show somehow tracked it down, repurchased it and presented it to him during the taping of the show. Its a good thing I’ll know that is coming when I watch the show, maybe it will keep me from getting a little teary-eyed.

For another review, check the comments section of my previous post on the show, for a note from a reader who was lucky enough to snag a ticket to the taping.

ESPN Homecoming

October 30, 2008

Josh Hamilton is heading back to high school today.  He is returning to his alma mater, Athens Drive High School in Raleigh, NC to shoot an episode for a new ESPN series called ‘Homecoming.’  I’ve never heard of this series, before, but I think the title is pretty much self explanatory.  Anyone attending needs a ticket, and the school was giving away free tickets earlier this week.  If anyone happens to get out to this, feel free to provide a report in the comments section, or shoot me a link if you have your own site to post it on.

Also, if anyone has any info on when this is airing, let me know.  I don’t have ESPN in Canada (well, I have ESPN Classic Canada, but I don’t think I want to wait for them to show it), but I’ll try to track it down somewhere.

2000 Finest Ballpark Bounties

October 29, 2008

In the hopes of stirring up some good karma for the Rays tonight, I broke out the binder to find a card of Josh in his (Devil) Rays duds.  2000 Topps Finest brings us the Ballpark Bounties insert.  The baseball on the front of this card is reflective.  All it reflects in the scan is light, and the bottom of the scanner, but trust me – its awesome.  If I were so inclined, I could use it to see if someone was sneaking up behind me.

Alberta Roosevelt Council

October 28, 2008

Alberta Council, mother of Claybon Council passed away in August of 2008, at the age of 89. The News & Observer has profiled her in its Life Stories section. I’d encourage everyone to give it a read. She got the chance to watch her son pitching to Josh Hamilton at the 2008 Home Run Derby , but cringed every time announcers referred to her son’s age. Like every good mother, she was concerned that it might hurt her son’s feelings if that was the focus.

There’s a lot more to her life than simply being a footnote to Josh Hamilton’s 2008 Home Run Derby exploits, and I am grateful to have found this article to share with more people. She was a single mother, a hard worker, and she was relentless in her focus on only the positive aspects of life and the people she encountered. She also loved Elvis.

Rest in peace, Mrs. Council.

More contract talk

October 26, 2008

Texas Rangers Blog has an interview with Rangers GM Jon Daniels, and one of the topics they touch on is Hamilton’s contract status. One of the things I want to touch on is the fact that Jon Daniels looks really, really young. I don’t know if he’s another one of those Theo Epstein-style wunderkinds, if he’s just blessed with a youthful appearance, or if the Dallas Morning News just has a really skillful photographer, but he looks like he might still get carded when he buys a beer.

When asked about working on a long-term contract for Josh Hamilton, Daniels reply is “Usually, those things occur between the first of the year and spring training. Josh is a guy we want here for a long time and we’ll address that at the right time.” I’ll be looking forward to a press release this winter about a potential contract signing with bated breath.

There’s lots of other Rangers related goodies in the interview as well. I’ve become a Rangers junkie by default, in my quest to keep up with Hamilton, and in the hopes they will build a winning, playoff team around him.

Lee Edges Out Hamilton

October 25, 2008

Cliff Lee beat out Josh Hamilton and Troy Percival in the voting for the American League Comeback Player of the Year for 2008. It was a great year for comebacks all around. These guys didn’t just scrape their way back to the majors, they came back and dominated. Lee is likely to win the Cy Young, and has already been dubbed Top Pitcher by his fellow MLB Players. Hamilton was named the AL’s Outstanding Player, while powering his way to a .304 average and 32 home runs. He also knocked 35 out of the park during his Home Run Derby performance at the 2008 All Star Game. Percival bounced back from a save-less 2007 season, and a pitching-less 2006 season to chalk up 28 saves for the newly dominant Tampa Bay Rays.

Congratulations to Cliff Lee, there was really no bad choice for this award. Winner’s of the MLB Player’s Choice Awards recommend a charity of their choice to receive a grant from Player’s Trust. Its nice to see these great players will have a chance to help out even more people who need it.

Reader Retro Contribution Redux….

October 25, 2008

Travis has struck again. Most of you probably recall his recent contribution to this blog, a Josh Hamilton 1981 Topps card. I got an email Friday with another retro card. He has really outdone himself with this one though. I’m happy to show off the first 2008 Punkacle Idols card – featuring Josh Hamilton and Clay Counsil. Pure gold. Thanks so very much, Travis. This is a beautiful card – great concept and amazing execution. It puts a smile on my face every time I see it, and I think it will do so for a long time to come.


Willie Aybar’s path back

October 24, 2008

Tampa Bay Rays infielder Willie Aybar has battled his own demons to get himself back into baseball, and now he finds himself near the top of the heap, with the Rays and Phillies tied at 1 in the World Series. The New York Times reports on Aybar’s struggles with alcohol that threatened his baseball career. Just last year, in 2007 Aybar spent three months undergoing treatment for his addiction to alcohol. His 2007 baseball season was a write off. After playing winter ball in the Dominican Republic, he was traded to the Rays by the Braves. He made his way back to the majors in time for the Rays 2008 season.

Aybar made his mark with the Rays when rookie third baseman Evan Longoria went down with a broken wrist in August. During the playoffs, he has platooned at DH with Cliff Floyd.

Acquiring a player with the history of Willie Aybar can be a risk. Something the Rays are very familiar with, having dealt with Josh Hamilton while he was in the worst depths of his addiction problems. The team did a lot of research, and decided Aybar was worth the risk. The gamble has paid off, probably never more so than in Game 7 of the ALCS when Aybar went deep off the Red Sox Jon Lester.

A winning locker room can be a treacherous place for a recovering alcoholic. Champagne and beer soaked celebrations are the norm, and the Rays have had the honour three times so far this season. Aybar has been almost a full participant in these. He enjoys the revelry with his teammates, and the spraying of champagne – while not imbibing himself. “Anybody that’s had a problem with alcohol knows what his limits are. I thank God I can celebrate. There’s no drinking involved.”

Book Signing Report

October 24, 2008

Trading Markets has a report on Josh Hamilton’s book signing in Raleigh, North Carolina on October 16, 2008.  I really wish I lived in an area where I would have opportunities like this.  NC State was actually my second choice for grad school, when I was making that decision.  It was a distant second, because I really like the situation I had, but it was still second.  Hindsight’s 20/20, I suppose.  I really didn’t think to make a decision like that based on who might possibly appear for a book signing in October of 2008, anyways.

There were about 200 people at the signing in Raleigh, and by the account here, it was a positive experience.  He looked fans in the eye, and had time for a brief chat with those who wanted it.  I’ve seen some signings where it looks like the guest of honour was just dragged out of bed, and they act like it.  I’m glad to see Josh made it worth people’s time.  He kidded a youngster who showed up wearing a Red Sox jersey, “What’s going on here?”  And when asking a 7 year old who his favorite player was, he got the simple answer, “You.”

If anyone else attended a book signing, please drop a comment and tell me how it went.  I’d love to hear about it, and share it with anyone else who stumbles on this blog.

“…a heck of an outfield..”

October 23, 2008

A few more great quotes from Josh on the Rays having such a successful season were gleaned from a Canadian Press wire story.

“That would’ve been a heck of an outfield. Carl, Rocco and me, running balls down, throwing guys out, hitting home runs.”  I guess Josh sees himself in the BJ Upton role, which I guess is a good fit.  No love for former Blue Jay Gabe Gross though.  Three of the four in the outfield, and one as a DH would be very potent indeed.  I know the Rays are doing just fine without him, but I have a terminal attraction for very bad teams (I’m a Toronto Maple Leafs fan), so please allow me my dreams.

“I’d go up to them and tell them how happy I was for them.  I told them to go all the way, get it done. And they might do it.”  On his conversations with some Rays throughout the season.  Hamilton progressed through the Rays minor league system with Carl Crawford, until he was suspended for drug use.

There’s also a note in the article about why Hamilton hasn’t had his tattoos, which are a constant visual reminder of his past removed.  He gave it a shot, but “Imagine how it hurts going on and times it by about 10 coming off.”