Thursday, July 14, 2011

Lone Ranger

I think of the old Yiddish proverb "God gives burdens, also shoulders" quite a bit. The first time I heard it was election night, 1980, when Jimmy Carter lost the election to some movie actor who went on to confuse "Being the president" with "Playing the president in a movie" for eight years, assisted by his co-star actress wife.

Hamilton with mourning ribbon
ANY way, it comes to mind again these days in the case of Josh Hamilton, outfielder for the Texas Rangers.  Hamilton, at the age of 30, is about at the top of his profession, but it's been a long hard climb to get there.  Hamilton fell victim to drug and alcohol abuse early in his career and actually spent the years 2004-2006 out of baseball, mired in intoxication and dissolution, only to get it back together, kick his habits, and become an All-Star big leaguer. 

I'm not always so easy on people who are given great gifts and yet toss them away foolishly, but Hamilton gets credit for turning his life around.  But the twists and turns are not quite through for him.

Last week, he did what you see ballplayers do all the time after an inning ends. Waiting in the on-deck circle for his turn at bat, he picked up a foul ball and tossed it toward the outstretched glove of a fan.

That fan was Shannon Stone, a 39-year-old firefighter from Brownwood, TX, who had brought his 6-year-old son to the game to see his favorite ballplayer - Josh Hamilton.  In the previous inning, Hamilton had tossed a ball to a little girl in the stands, and heard young Cooper Stone asking for a souvenir of his own.  

The next chance he had to make good on that wish, Hamilton complied.  The boy and his dad were up above him by twenty feet, and maybe the toss was a little short, and maybe Mr Stone just missed catching it.  Who knows.  The horror is that, in trying to catch the ball for his son, Mr Stone fell out of the stands and down to the level below, dying of blunt force trauma.  The photo at right shows the scene from last Thursday.

Firefighter Stone was buried on Monday, and you have to count on Heaven sending angels to earth to help his son deal with what he has just seen with his own eyes.  

And then, the next day...

On Friday, Hamilton, already dealing with the events of the night before, hit a screaming foul into the stands in the sixth inning of a game with Oakland.  That fan got conked on the face, and left the stadium bloodied and needing stitches.

The foul ball aftermath
You understand that major league baseball does not allow the use of aluminum bats like they use in softball and college ball, because when a major league hitter hits a ball pitched to him at 90+ mph, the ball is hit so hard that the added power of the lighter bat would make the position of pitcher way too dangerous to play.  Foul balls also fly off their wooden bats and into the stands with ferocious velocity.

But for Josh Hamilton, one can only feel pity and concern.  We can rationalize that, of course, neither of these accidents was intentional on his part, and he was just there doing what he was supposed to be doing when they occurred.  All true, and yet, we'll need to wait and see if they have an effect on his future performance and his peace of mind. 

These are burdens he has to bear alone on earth, and we pray that his shoulders will support him through his faith.  I have a feeling that he will get help from an angel as well.  We always do!

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