PHOENIX - I am sitting in the auxiliary press box in left field during the American League workout session.
Texas’ Josh Hamilton is one of about seven A.L. player shagging balls right in front of me. Every time one of them gets a ball, the bleacher bums at Chase Field go nuts trying to get them to throw the ball in the stands.
Hamilton, usually one of the fan friendliest ballplayers, is barely even acknowledging them.
Can’t blame the poor guy.
If you remember correctly Hamilton is the player who threw the ball in the stands last week that led to the death of a fan – 39-year-old Shannon Stone had his funeral in Brownsville, Texas today – when he fell over a railing, landing on concrete 20-feet later at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.
It was a freak accident, but Hamilton, who has a history of substance abuse that knocked him out of the game for years, has to be thinking if only he had thrown the ball a little further it never happens.
Hamilton was interactive with the fans with balls heading toward for the seats but if he had one in his mitt then he understandably just turned and threw the ball back in.
In talking to him early in the day and you could tell that the incident had an effect. He has been through so much in his personal life and has a great support system.
Afterall, the ballpark isn't a sanctuary anymore.
"I can't approach it that way, because that used to be my life, period, and then obviously I got involved in drugs and things like that.
"I can't use it as my sanctuary anymore. You have to deal with life, you deal with accidents. Things that happen, you deal with them. You don't run to your job or anything else."
The support system is invaluable because something of that magnitude – the simple act done at thousands, maybe millions, of games over the years – has to really weigh on someone.
If it had been some other player the ordeal might have been more traumatic.
Not that Hamilton got over it easily, but he himself has stared death in the face. It gives him a insight, and exeperience dealing with terrible issues and how to move past it.