MLB.com Columnist

Meggie Zahneis

Angels star Hamilton talks hitting and faith

Angels star Hamilton talks hitting and faith

Hey kids, want to know how to hit a baseball?

Look no further. One of the game's experts on the subject, Angels outfielder Josh Hamilton (he of the lifetime .303 batting average and .547 slugging percentage) is here to save the day.

Let's not forget Hamilton's record 28 first-round dingers in the 2008 Home Run Derby as we consider his groundbreaking advice:

"Don't make it harder than it is. That means don't think too much," hitting Professor Hamilton said. "I get into trouble when [I] think too much at the plate. So you just go back to, 'See the ball, hit the ball.' Do your best to swing at strikes. I like to expand the zone a little bit, sometimes more than most people, but I've been successful with that.

"When everything else is going wrong mechanically for me, it is about hitting to contact. If you watch the ball to contact, it eliminates a lot of problems."

Hamilton has a natural talent with a piece of lumber in his hands.

"The Lord blessed me with the talent for the game," he said. "My mom was a great softball player and she taught me a lot. My dad and mom coached me until I got to high school. But I still had to work at it. It was fun growing up that way."

But don't get him wrong: by no means is he a perfect hitting specimen.

"I think what makes the game fun is that you are never going to be perfect at it or you are never going to be as good as you can possibly be," Hamilton said. "There [are] always things you can do to improve.

"The game is about adjustments. When things are going good, you're not thinking and you're just playing the game. When things are not going so good, you're thinking too much and trying to make things happen."

For example, Wednesday night Hamilton squared off against the Reds' Mat Latos, whom he had never faced before. Although Latos didn't give up a hit to Hamilton that night, Hamilton did his homework on Latos ahead of time.

"I watch a lot of video to see what pitches he throws, what he throws at what counts, and when you get back to it, you gotta swing at strikes and see the ball, hit the ball."

It all seems deceptively simple, doesn't it?

"A lot of players do things differently, but no matter who you are, everybody's gotta get back to the same spot before you swing the bat," Hamilton explains. "You can watch [different players] before the pitch comes, but right before you swing, everything looks the same every time."

Simplicity. That's what it all boils down to, Professor Hamilton said. Never mind the batter's mannerisms or routines -- once the ball comes hurtling towards him, it's all the same.

See the ball, hit the ball.

Speaking of baseballs, Hamilton doesn't just hit them, he signs them, too.

A lot of them.

He's renowned in baseball circles not just for his hitting, but for his willingness to sign countless autographs for his fans.

"I just feel like that [playing baseball] is like a mission trip for me," Hamilton explains. "I'm not running to Africa, I'm not running overseas or different places. Right now I am a baseball player and every autograph that I sign, I put scripture verses on. On pictures, I put scriptures on the back. I actually have [the Bible verse] Jeremiah 11 engraved in my bat. It's awesome to have the opportunity to share with people."

Hamilton said his faith is a large part of his career. So much, in fact, that he stops mid-interview to reveal a fan-created T-shirt he's wearing under his Angels warm-up pullover.

"Everyone commits errors, but His sacrifice will get you home," it reads, accompanied by a home plate adorned with a cross made of baseball seams.

Hamilton's reflection on his faith is especially relevant this week as he takes a trip down Memory Lane to play against his former teammates in Cincinnati and Arlington.

"It's funny for me to think about my relationship with the Lord and to think about 2006 when I came back to play baseball, and '07 when I went to my first Spring Training with the Reds and He took me to Sarasota/Bradenton, Fla., and that's where everything began for me," Hamilton said.

"For me to be [in Cincinnati], and for me to be in Texas, reminds me that He takes me places that He brought me to and He brought me through, and it is really cool. I'm really excited about the whole possibility of it."

As well he should be.

Meggie Zahneis, winner of the 2011 Breaking Barriers essay contest, earned the job of youth correspondent for MLB.com in the fall of '11. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.