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Wasted

Posted at 11:21 AM on May 27, 2005 by David Zingler

In the summer of 1999, Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace was released. It featured a young, gifted child named Anakin Skywalker. Anointed the “chosen one”, his future seemed limitless; he held the entire galaxy in the palm of his hand. That same summer the Tampa Bay Devil Rays selected an 18-year-old outfielder named Josh Hamilton with the first overall pick in the amateur draft.

Hamilton was the All-American boy, described in Sports Illustrated as “handsome, with chiseled features, blue eyes, and a short crop of light brown hair that never seems out of place.” At 6-4, 205 lbs, Hamilton had a sweet, left-handed swing, registered 96 mph on the radar gun with his golden left arm and roamed the outfield with effortless grace. Throw in a $3.9 million signing bonus, and the world seemed to be his.

Fast forward to the present, the recently released Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, is all the rage. An adult Anakin Skywalker, consumed with arrogance and the lust for power, alienates all the people who care about him, succumbs to the “Dark Side” and ends up a freakish cyborg.

Hamilton meanwhile, has spent the last six years doing everything possible to throw his once promising future away. Directionless and immature, Hamilton chose a path laden with drugs and cheap thrills. The once clean-cut, All-American boy’s body is now covered in grotesque tattoos.

On May 21, after reportedly remaining clean and sober for six months, the 24-year-old was arrested for destroying the rearview mirror and smashing the windshield of a family friend's pickup truck after an argument. Predictably, alcohol was involved in the incident.

Hamilton, who hasn’t appeared in a pro game since 2002, has been on a drug related suspension since February 2004 and had hoped to be reinstated by mid season. Now, that is in jeopardy.

"To see what's happened is really disheartening," Devil Rays manager Lou Piniella told the St. Petersburg Times. "But again, he's still young. I know I've asked about him many times, and I've really been hoping Josh would get his life together and get back in baseball and give himself another good, legitimate chance."

"(The latest incident) doesn't make it easier, but he still has some time. But the clock is ticking."

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