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How does Josh Hamilton recover from this?

Baltimore Orioles v Texas Rangers

ARLINGTON, TX - JULY 06: Josh Hamilton #32 of the Texas Rangers at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on July 6, 2011 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

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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.