He's ours.

March 16,
2008:

 

Maybe
the most ridiculous thing about a Josh Hamilton Batting Practice Display is that
since so many of his missiles explode like a perfectly struck tee shot, every
once in a while he’ll bump one off the end of the bat, and your eyes shift to
the outfielder in whose direction the ball is traveling (it could be any one of
them, from left center field to straightway right), and as you wait for him to
trot in to haul the lazy fly in, or at worst camp under it in place to make the
catch, instead you see the outfielder jog back toward the fence, basically a
courtesy gesture as the mis-hit ball carries over the wall to keep the last
several Hamilton shots company.

And
then there are the pitches that Hamilton squares up on, the ones that cause
you, involuntarily, to issue a “Whoaaaaa” in unison with your
three-and-a-half-year-old son, with the same reaction of equal parts awe,
adrenaline, and disbelief.  The ones on which the outfielders stand as
motionless and unneeded as they do on the requisite bunts that the Rangers’
penciled number two hitter drops (and drops well) at the start of his
rounds.

David
Murphy (as I’d hoped) and Marlon Byrd, hitting in sequence with Hamilton, had
the misfortune of having what were absolutely impressive BP sessions of their
own look unjustly pedestrian in comparison to their teammate’s, like watching
Terrence Newman and Terrell Owens run a 40 alongside Deion
Sanders.

The
Hamilton swing
is so devoid of effort, it makes no sense.  You’ve seen the scout’s comment
about the “flat-out, God-given gasoline” that comes effortlessly out of Neftali
Feliz’s arm.  Josh Hamilton endows his baseball bat with a flat-out, God-given
thunderstorm.  A nearly silent thunderstorm,
somehow.

 

The players fringing the
diamond tonight, each of them Major League All-Stars themselves, had the same
speechless, wide-eyed, almost giddy expressions on their faces that Max and I
had on the couch watching that spectacle.  Before Josh Hamilton’s first round
was done, the players were all on their feet, just like the 50,000 Yankee
Stadium fans who, in the space of 10 minutes, had adopted him as their own. 

The best moment for me
was not the 502 off the Bank of America sign in right center, or the 504, or the
518.  Not the 13 straight.  Not the blast that tied Bobby Abreu for the greatest
first round in Derby history, and not the one that broke the
record.  Not the blast that Milton Bradley and Ian Kinsler and Michael Young
were having, though that was pretty cool. 

The best moment, I
thought, was after home run number 17, when Hamilton stepped out of the box to catch his
breath, and did what we all wanted him to do.  He stopped.  Slowly turned around
and looked to the crowd, which somewhere included his family.  And then to
another part of the crowd.  And another.  Smiling, soaking that moment in, the
one he’d dreamed almost prophetically about, as awestruck as those 50,000 who
were on their feet, looking back at him and chanting his name.  “I got chills,”
Hamilton would
say afterwards.  “I got chills.”

Take note, Rangers
fans.

hamiltonderby1.jpg

 

As one of you texted me
as it was all unfolding:

He’s ours.

 

You can read more from Jamey Newberg at www.NewbergReport.com.

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