Posted by Chip Stevenson
As I sit here watching an otherwise enjoyable Tagers game that has the good guys winning 7-2 in the 7th inning and has so far given us a Ramon Santiago home run, 2 Jacque Jones hits!!!, and back to back home runs for the middle of our lineup, I see that Zach Miner is trying his best to blow yet another game for us. He's really, really good at that. Unfortunately for him, being good at that usually leads to unemployment. So, in an effort to take my mind off the fact that Miner is a big wussy, I'm going to write a post that I've been meaning to write for a while- My Favorite Non-Tagers.
1.) Micah Owings, starting pitcher for the Arizona Diamondbacks: I first heard of this guy when the Jankees were trying to trade away Randy Johnson a couple years ago. The Janks desperately wanted Micah Owings in the trade, but the Diamondbacks wouldnt give in... so right off the bat, I liked him because it was sort of a David kicking Goliath in the shin type story (side story: During my days as a superstar on the JV basketball team in high school, some practices would get pretty heated. One of the stupid scrubs on the team was doing some sort of boxing out drill or something with one of the studs. The scrub got really pissed at the stud for some reason so he walked up to the stud, flat out kicked him right in the shin, and ran out of the gym crying. The next week, the scrub was a starter on the girl's freshman basketball squad and he fit right in). Anyways, Owings is damn good because he is a starting pitcher that throws gas, an intimidating presence on the mound at 6'5" 220 pounds, AND he can flat out rake as a hitter. I don't think there is any other player in the majors that reminds me more of myself in those respects. There is nothing more badass to me than a pitcher who can hit. First, Micah is 4-0 this year with an era that most of the Tagers pitchers could only dream of right now (2.42). If that wasn't enough, he is a career .329 hitter with a .616 career slugging percentage. In the 7th inning of a game the other night, his team was hitting and his spot in the order was coming up. His night was over as a pitcher, but the manager STILL let him hit. That NEVER happens in the real world. There is already talk of having him be the Diamondbacks' designated hitter when they play in American League parks later this year. That's so crazy to me, and I can't wait to see how he does. If he was in the AL right now, maybe he could be playing every day being the DH for every game he doesnt throw. Keep your eye on him the rest of the year.
2.) Josh Hamilton, starting center fielder for the Texas Rangers: Even if you have already heard his story, it's worth hearing again so here it is. He was drafted number one overall out of high school by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in 1999. He was supposed to be the quintessential 5 tool player and a sure bet to be a star. As a pitcher in high school, his fastball routinely hit 95 mph, but he was drafted as an outfielder, and in his first year in the minor leagues, he led his team to a league championship. Often compared to Roy Hobbs in The Natural, his career obviously started off with a bang, and it was only a matter of time before he would be tearing it up against the Pedro Martinezes and Johan Santanas of the world. Unfortunately, after hurting his back in a car accident during the following year, he fell into the devastating world of drugs, derailing his promising career. He was eventually banned from baseball for failing multiple drug tests, and he had to go through an extensive background check in 2006 to be reinstated. He ended up being completely out of baseball for a full three years while he slowly got his life together, but his extensive time away from the game and the fact that he had never played above single A ball made many experts think that his career was over. Still, when someone forms that debilitating relationship with drugs, sobriety is success enough, regardless of how much or little baseball would play in the rest of his life. When he finally did come back and was selected by the Cubs in the rule 5 draft and subsequently traded to the Cincinnati Reds, he miraculously showed all of the skills that made him the first overall draft pick in 1999 as if he had been playing all along. He received a 22 second standing ovation before his first ever major league at bat, which was a moment that I will never forget as a baseball fan. He had overcome incredible odds, and to simply reach the big leagues after all he went through is an incredible accomplishment by itself. I dont know about you guys, but if I stopped practicing baseball for just a week, I was completely out of whack when I came back. This guy was out of baseball for THREE YEARS, and even when he was playing, he only played in A ball. When he came back in 2007, he was more than holding his own in the majors, and he became the feel good story of the year. In the offseason, he was traded to the Texas Rangers where he is currently playing everyday and anchoring their lineup as the 3 hitter. It still gives me goosebumps just thinking about all the shit he had to go through- from being a millionaire right out of high school, to dominating A ball, to falling into the grips of drugs, to being out of baseball for years, to coming back and being a star. He attributes his sobriety to his newfound faith in God, and I can't help but have my faith strengthened by his story- Somebody HAS to be helping him out from above for him to be where he is today, you know? His comeback is definitely an inspiration to me, and his story completely transcends baseball. The demons of drug abuse will always follow him around, but I hope he stays clean and sober throughout his career so that he can reach the levels that scouts once thought were a sure thing back in 1999. Hopefully, he will continue to be a model to all of those with addiction problems. The video below is his first major league hit, coming just months after he picked up a bat and baseball for the first time in years, and it was fittingly a home run.