As the New York Mets find themselves in a pennant race for the first time in years, largely due to stellar pitching, many have been calling for the team to make a move for some bats. The term “professional hitter” has been thrown around lately on the radio talk shows and in print. The Mets need to add a “professional hitter” they say. Each time I’ve heard that phrase of late Darryl Hamilton came to mind.
Not for today’s team of course—the lefty batter is long since retired, but when I thought of today’s “professional hitters,” like the Ben Zobrists of the world—they all remind me of Hamilton, a pro’s pro who filled a void for the Mets years ago.
Strangely enough, Hamilton’s name made headlines Monday afternoon. Even more strange, it tragically wasn’t about baseball. Far from it. Hamilton, a man I interviewed many times in 2000, was killed, apparently the victim of a murder-suicide. The friendly, intelligent, funny guy I had the privilege to talk to on several occasions was gone—just like that.
I remember the queasy feeling I got when former NFL star Steve McNair was murdered years ago in a case of a relationship gone very wrong. While the details of Hamilton’s death are still being uncovered, all signs point to a similar, horrible fate. In the coming days we will learn a lot about what happened here and some of it may not shine the greatest light on Hamilton. We’ll see. I don’t care about that at all right now. I only know that a man who was a wonderful ball player and seemingly a tremendous guy has been blown away needlessly. It’s sad and it’s a shame.
After a cup of coffee with the Milwaukee Brewers in 1988, Hamilton delivered in the Major Leagues from 1990-2001. As a member of the Brew Crew, Texas Rangers, San Francisco Giants, Colorado Rockies, and, finally, the Mets, Hamilton enjoyed a solid career. He hit over .300 four times and ended his playing days with a .291 average. The talented hitter could also flash the leather. Over a 13-year career, the outfielder committed only 14 errors. Whether a regular or a reserve, Hamilton brought a supreme effort to the ball park each and every game.
Hamilton provided an instant spark for the playoff-bound Mets in 1999 and followed that up in 2000 as a key contributor off the bench for an Amazins club that went on to win the National League pennant. While I’ll certainly remember Hamilton as a super hitter who rarely struck out and used his speed to his advantage, I’ll also remember him more as a good man who always had time to talk no matter what happened that day inside the lines.
The 2000 Mets were chock full of easy-to-talk-to, accessible, and engaging guys. They made a young reporter feel right at home. From the manager Bobby Valentine to a slew of players who understood how to do things the right way, the Mets got it. Robin Ventura, Bobby J. Jones, Kurt Abbott, Edgardo Alfonzo, and Rick White all went above and beyond to accommodate whatever it was I needed for a story on a particular day. Darryl Hamilton did the same. He not only gave me plenty of quotes to work with but he always took the time to share a laugh and ask about me as well.
We’ll find out plenty in the coming days regarding this horrible incident. I don’t know what we’ll learn. Likely it’ll be something along the lines of the McNair deal—a bad situation that spiraled ridiculously out of control. I can only speak from what I know and who I knew. Darryl Hamilton was a good man. I pray for him and his family. The professional hitter will be sorely missed.