How does Josh Hamilton recover from this?

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I feel terrible for the man who died in the stands at Rangers Ballpark on Thursday night and even worse for his young son.  But it’s impossible not to have equal sympathy for Josh Hamilton.

The foul ball that Hamilton threw into the stands is going to haunt the man for the rest of his life.  How will he be able to sleep tonight or any other night in the near future knowing that if he just threw the ball a little farther, some boy’s father would still be alive?

The answer is that he probably won’t.  And for this to happen to Hamilton of all ballplayers seems particularly sadistic.  Hamilton, the 2010 AL MVP, nearly lost his career to drugs before it even got started, and he only put his life back together by putting himself into the Lord’s hands.

And Hamilton still has his demons.  When it looked like he might slip back into drinking a couple of years ago, he swore off alcohol.  The Rangers, maybe sensing his fragility, celebrated with ginger ale after winning the ALDS and the ALCS in 2010.

One can only hope that Hamilton is able to put the incident behind him in the coming months, and that he has the strength to withstand those substances that may offer temporary relief but leave him far worse off for the long run.  Baseball certainly seems like a secondary concern at the moment, but the diamond is Hamilton’s safe haven and he’ll have the good fortune to be surrounded by teammates day in and day out.

The pain doesn’t figure to go away anytime soon.  But here’s hoping it only makes him stronger.

James Paxton has a fantastic new nickname

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James Paxton of the Mariners is 3-0 with a 1.39 ERA, 39 strikeouts and only six walks in 32.1 innings of work over five starts. Last night he shut the Tigers down, tossing seven shutout innings, striking out nine and allowing only four hits. With Felix Hernandez looking less than king-like lately, Paxton is asserting himself as the new ace of the Seattle staff.

And now the tall Canadian native has a nickname to match his ace-like status:

“Pax was really outstanding and we certainly needed it,” manager Scott Servais said of the Canadian southpaw. “Big Maple is what he was nicknamed tonight and I kind of like that. He was awesome.”

“Big Maple” is a fantastic nickname. That’s the sort of nickname guys used to get back when nicknames were great. Before managers just put “y” at the end of dudes’ names and before the “First Initial-First Three Letters of The Last Name” convention took hold in the wake of A-Rod.

“Big Maple.” That makes me smile. I’m gonna be smiling all dang day because of that.

The Rays gave Seth Smith a little league homer last night

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I mentioned this in the recaps this morning, but I think it deserves it’s own special place. Get what went down in the second inning of last night’s Rays-O’s game:

Ryan Flaherty was on first with Seth Smith up to bat. Smith hit a single to center. Flaherty, who was running with the pitch, was making for third base. All-world defender Kevin Kiermaier tried to gun him down but threw wildly to third, causing Flaherty to break for home.

Pitcher Alex Cobb had the play backed up, however! He got the ball near the dugout. Flaherty scampered back to third and Cobb tried to throw him out. The ball hit Flaherty’s helmet, richocheting into left field, allowing both Flaherty and Smith — who had stopped at first and then stopped at second, like a kid at tee ball or something — to come around and score.

Watch:

 

I still think the Rays walking home the winning run on four pitches in the 11th inning was worse, but this looked worse.

Oh well: the Rays get the day off today and tomorrow, of course, is another day.