The 2010 World Series came to a close on Monday evening with the San Francisco Giants achieving victory over the Texas Rangers, winning the best-of-seven series 4-1.  It was the first Major League Baseball championship for the Giants since the relocation of the franchise from New York City to California in 1958.  Despite the loss in the World Series, Rangers’ fans had a lot to celebrate this year, with their team winning a post-season series for the first time, not just once but twice, with a Division Championship Series victory over the Tampa Bay Rays and a League Championship Series triumph over their much-despised nemesis, the New York Yankees.  Although loyal, passionate fans like the Bobby Ross, Jr., Family and other friends of mine in Texas and Oklahoma were rooting wildly for the Rangers, I was quietly pulling for the Giants.  Growing up in Kentucky in the 1970s not far from Cincinnati in the era of the Big Red Machine and later living deeper in the Southeast with the Braves being the regional favorite, I’ve just always been a National League guy.  Pitchers should bat.  I’m just sayin’.     

However, it was the Rangers and one of their star players who provided one of the most inspiring and encouraging back-stories this season.  Outfielder Josh Hamilton had a career year in 2010.  He won the American League batting title with a batting average of .359, led all of baseball in Slugging Percentage and On-Base Plus Slugging stats, and was awarded the Most Valuable Player Award in the ALCS.

Josh Hamilton speaks with complete openness about his faith in Jesus Christ and credits his Lord and Savior with giving him strength and perseverance in his battle with drug and alcohol addiction.  When Hamilton has stumbled, as he did in a widely reported 2009 incident in a Tempe, Arizona, nightclub, he has acknowledged his failings with sincerity and humility and has taken full responsibility for his actions.  It has been encouraging to see how the Rangers’ organization and fans have embraced and supported Hamilton.  In one of the classiest moves in the history of sports, Hamilton’s teammates had their initial clubhouse celebrations with ginger ale instead of champagne when they defeated both the Rays and the Yankees.  It was their way of demonstrating their love for their teammate, their respect for his character and faith, and their sensitivity to his struggle with substance abuse.

It would have been easy for the Rangers to have turned their backs on Hamilton in 2009.  They could have walked beside him with an apparently sympathetic arm around his shoulder and, upon reaching the curb, they could have abruptly left him there alone.  Or worse, they could have gone ahead and completely thrown him under the bus.  But, they didn’t.  They continued to believe in him, support him, and provide the kind of framework and family that would best insure his success in the future.  It appears that the Rangers chose well.

It is wonderful that Christians can be inspired and encouraged by examples like Josh Hamilton and the Rangers.  It would be more wonderful if professional athletes were regularly inspired and encouraged by the way churches consistently care for the wounded and struggling among them, whether they be members, leaders, or ministers.

“Therefore, strengthen the hands that are weak and the knees that are feeble.” (Hebrews 12:12)