Erica had her seven questions written out -- none about playing baseball -- and was ready. Less nervous than Mom and Dad were for her. Ready.
As Hamilton signed autographs just outside the batting practice field for what was probably 20 minutes, Rice gave us the signal. We waited in the third base dugout, and Erica was all set. Hamilton finished signing and walked into the dugout, a safe haven for him for an entire life and completely unfamiliar territory to the eight-year-old whose small window of time was about to creak open.
The world-famous superstar, a man who has probably done more interviews in the last year than the rest of his teammates combined, made Erica feel like it was his privilege to sit down to talk with her. He looked her in the eye (and she never looked away). He applauded her questions with a raised eyebrow, as if to say, "You're how old?" His answers were thoughtful and honest, not watered down because of his audience, and not sanitized. He made Erica smile a lot and laugh a time or two, and he, and she, made her parents incredibly proud. As much as we've all learned about Josh Hamilton over the last year, as inundated as we've all been with his extraordinary story, I hadn't stopped to think that there was yet another amazing side to this guy I hadn't seen or read about, but I was dead wrong.
Minutes after the MLB Network crew decided to stick their cameras and a boom mike over Erica's and Josh's heads (we're told there's a tiny chance that some of the interview may find its way into this afternoon's program), the interview was done, and he posed for a photograph between Erica and Max. Afterwards, he made Erica assure him that she would send him a copy of the photograph, with her autograph on it, because he just knew she'd be a famous reporter one day.
Erica took the experience in stride, neither overwhelmed nor smug, in some ways not unlike the way in which Elvis Andrus is handling his own new experience this spring.
It was a very good day.
Jamey Newberg reports another moving story: Carson Leslie participates in spring training.