Found May 11, 2012 on
Fox Sports Southwest:
ARLINGTON, Texas Long before Josh Hamilton was making history like he did Tuesday night with his four-homer game in Baltimore, another member of his family was also a prodigious power hitter.
In fact, if it weren't for the home run hitting abilities of one of Hamilton's parents, there may never have been a Josh Hamilton.
That's why everyone who's a fan of Hamilton should be thankful for the hitting prowess of Hamilton's mom Linda.
"My dad went to watch a men's softball game and when they got of the out car, the softball game had been canceled," Josh Hamilton said. "The women were playing on the men's field and this ball comes flying into the parking lot. He said 'Let's go see who did that.' The next at-bat she hits the ball to center. The next one goes to right. The next at-bat she hits it off the wall in center. He said he needed to talk to her. After the game he went up to her, introduced himself and asked if she'd like to go out some time."
That game helped pave the way to marriage and eventually one of the best players in baseball. More than 30 years later, Hamilton is putting up most valuable player caliber-numbers and the two time defending American League champion Texas Rangers are in first place in the AL West.
While his numbers are impressive, he's really just following along in the family business that his mom helped blaze a trail through North Carolina in.
When Linda Holt, who declined to be interviewed for this story, was a freshman at Cary High School, she was good enough at baseball to make the varsity team. The one problem with that equation was that Linda didn't want to wear a cup, effectively ending her baseball career.
But that didn't stop her from playing though, as Cary started a slow-pitch softball team and Linda was one of the best players on the team.
"She was just the tops at the plate and at first base," said Barbara Stephens, who was the head coach at Cary when the softball program started in 1974 with Holt a member of the first team. "She was a good defensive player. She had a first baseman's mitt and nothing got past her. She'd pull the ball out of the dirt. She was part of a great softball team."
Softball in North Carolina was in its infancy when Holt began playing at Cary. The school couldn't participate in the state playoffs because it was a start-up program. Opportunities for softball players also ended after high school because there were no college programs for players to move on to in a state that didn't begin playing fast-pitch softball in high school until 1994. Both Hamilton and Stephens believe that if there were Hamilton's mom would have played collegiately.
"If women would have had more opportunity at the time, she would have gone really far," said Stephens. "She went about as far as she could go considering the time, especially in the south, especially in Wake County."
Just because she didn't get to play after high school didn't mean she gave up on softball. She played softball even when Josh and his older brother Jason were growing up.
"It was cool for me," Hamilton said. "I was the water boy for her softball team. My brother was the batboy."
Holt continued to have success too. Hamilton said her team won a national tournament in the 1980s and she would also play catch when Hamilton's father Tony couldn't when Josh was playing high school ball at Athens Drive High School.
While Hamilton got some of his ability from his father Tony, who played baseball, taught karate and also held a local bench-press record, there's no denying some of his mom's skills rubbed off on him too.
Stephens knows because not only did she coach Holt, she taught Hamilton at Athens Drive and watched him play baseball before he was the No. 1 overall pick of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in 1999.
"They were both just strong physical players," said Stephens, who taught Hamilton a course called PEPI, which stood for physical education pupil instructors. "A.J. (Holt's nickname) was such a strong physical player. You could also see that in Josh. As far as skill, the level of skill is similar when you just take a man vs. a woman. Their dedication was similar. Their focus was similar. I was just fortunate to see the both of them."
The Holt-Hamilton athletic genes may not have ended with Josh either. Hamilton and his wife Katie have four daughters. The three oldest are involved in sports, with one playing volleyball, one playing softball and one playing t-ball.
Hamilton watches them play sports when he can and knows their athletic ability likely comes from his side of the family. While Hamilton's wife Katie is competitive at everything she does, she's also very small. The girls however, may take after dad and their grandmother.
"I'm watching the seventh-month old," said Hamilton of his daughter Stella Faith. "She's a beast. At two months old, she was hitting one of those things that they swing at when they're lying on their back. She was hitting it with her right hand and then she would be able to stop it. She's got a lot of coordination."
Just like dad. Or is it grandmother?
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