Josh Hamilton's Homecoming was part revival, part "This Is Your Life," and part celebration.
But mostly it was a revival as Hamilton frankly discussed his addictions to alcohol and cocaine before an overflowing crowd at Athens Drive High in Raleigh before an ESPN television crew. An edited version of the homecoming will be televised nationally by ESPN as part of a new television show called Homecoming.The airing date has not be announced.
The show in the Athens Drive gym was broken into segments addressing different parts of the former Athens baseball star. He was a youth league all-star, a high school phenom and was the first player taken in the 1999 baseball draft.
Much of the commentary dealt with his addictions to cocaine and alcohol.
His addictions almost killed him and he was alway from baseball for almost three and a half years.
He said a miracle from God is the only explanation for his return to baseball. He said God gave him back baseball so that he could share his testimony about Jesus Christ. He told the supportive crowd that included the Athens cheerleaders, chorus and band, that people all over the country have asked how it was possible for him to overcome his addictions and return to baseball.
"It is a God thing," he told Homecoming host Rick Reilly and then explained that everything his has been able to do during the past two years has been a miracle.
He led the American League in RBI this season, hit .304 and finished with 32 home runs.
Close to two hours was taped, but it will be edited down to about an hour.
There were various people from Josh's life there, including his wife Katie, their three girls and Josh's mother and father, plus former Cincinatti Reds manager Jerry Narron and famed Home Run Derby pitcher Clay Council.
The tears came early for many in the audience and flowed freely for some when Ashley Pittman, the former Athens Drive manager and bat boy, came forward. Pittman has Down's Syndrone but Hamilton said Pittman had the sweetest spirit and always wanted the best for people.
"Josh is my best friend," Pittman said. Pittman said he had missed Josh and Josh said he had missed Ashley.
There may never have been a more joyous, but painful, homecoming. Hamilton faced his past and apologized to those people in the audience that he has hurt with his life as an addict.
He explained that when he was using cocaine he knew he was hurting people and destroying himself, but still pursued the next high.
Hamilton has a new autobiography, "Beyond Belief." He will meet people and sign books on Nov. 7 at the Barnes & Nobles in Cary.