Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: After clubbing 43 homers including nine in the span of one week, Texas Rangers slugger Josh Hamilton ended his 2012 season as a free agent. The same can no longer be said for his incredible life story, which has been acquired and will be turned into a feature film by Relativity Media. Relativity has closed a rights deal with Hamilton, along with a deal for Casey Affleck to write and direct. Thunder Road Pictures’ Basil Iwanyk will produce along with The Walsh Company’s Kevin Walsh. Thunder Road’s Kent Kubena will executive produce and Hamilton and his wife Katie will co-produce along with Hamilton’s business manager Steve Reed. Relativity has also closed a deal for rights to the book that Hamilton co-authored, Beyond Belief: Finding The Strength To Come Back.

Back in June, I wrote about this feature package that Iwanyk and Affleck were trying to build around Hamilton. I am a sucker for those inspirational sports films from The Blind Side to The Rookie and Brian’s Song and there is certainly one to be made about rising from the depths of addiction. While the landscape is littered with addiction casualties from Whitney Houston on down, Hamilton reminds me of a number of exceptional people like Robert Downey Jr, who after wrestling their demons have accomplished the admirable feat of realizing the potential of their outsized gifts. For Hamilton, this meant overcoming a crack cocaine addiction to become one of the most feared sluggers in baseball, something that seemed impossible when Hamilton was so rock bottom that his wife kicked him out of the house, and he was relegated to cleaning toilets and mowing the grass at a baseball training facility.

This was a precipitous fall for a prodigy who by the age of 15 effortlessly hit tape measure homers and threw a 96 mph fast ball. The Tampa Bay Rays made Hamilton the first player chosen in the 1999 draft and paid him a record $4 million. After he got hobbled in a car accident that badly hurt his mother, Hamilton fell into an addiction to booze and coke so hard that it seemed he would never make it out of the minor leagues. He met his future wife Katie after the team sent him to Betty Ford, but he was finally kicked out of baseball when he continued to fail drug tests. After wearing out his welcome with his wife (he pawned Katie’s wedding ring) and his parents, Hamilton moved in with his grandmother. After she caught him smoking crack, she helped force him to straighten out. One day, between his grounds-keeping rounds, he took the mound at the training facility and surprised everyone there by reaching 95 mph on the radar gun. It was the first of many forward steps that included embracing recovery and religion, and reconciling with his wife. Once he got to the big leagues, Hamilton’s talent took over. I recall the show he put on during the 2008 Home Run Derby during All Star Weekend in Yankee Stadium, when he hit a remarkable 28 homers in the first round, with not a cheapie in the bunch.

My, how that left handed swing fit in with the short right field fence in Yankee Stadium. And the Yankees seem like they will need a right fielder. I wish Affleck well with this project, but let’s hope the Boston-bred actor-turned writer/director doesn’t fill Hamilton’s head with Fenway propaganda, because Hamilton sure would look good in pinstripes. Maybe Hamilton stays in Texas where he resurrected his career. But if he can keep on the straight and narrow, Hamilton would put on a display of power not seen in the Bronx since the days of Mickey Mantle.