Reds bank on OF's redemption
Former No. 1 pick 'good kid from a good family,' Narron says
BY JOHN FAY | ENQUIRER STAFF WRITER
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. - When Reds general manager Wayne Krivsky mentioned to manager Jerry Narron that the club had a plan to obtain Josh Hamilton, Narron had one thought:
Narron has known Hamilton since Hamilton was a 15-year-old. He knows Hamilton's story - the decline from a can't-miss prospect to a skid-row drug addict.
"I felt all along if anyone could help the kid, it was me because of the relationship I've had with him. I know his past. I know his family. He's a good kid from a good family.
"He got caught up in something no one can explain. But I'm telling you, he's not a bad kid."
Narron will get a chance to help with Hamilton's redemption. The Reds gave Hamilton a fresh start Thursday by trading for him after the Chicago Cubs selected him in the Rule 5 Draft from the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.
It is a $50,000 gamble - that's what the Reds paid to get Hamilton. They have to keep him on their big-league roster all year or offer him back to the Devil Rays for $25,000.
"There are risks with anything," Krivsky said. "Nothing ventured, nothing gained."
Getting Hamilton for $50,000 is like buying a baseball lottery ticket: It could pay off big, but the odds aren't in your favor.
Hamilton realizes that himself. He thinks that's why the Devil Rays didn't protect him, even though they had paid him a then-record $3.95 million bonus after they selected him with the first pick in the 1999 draft.
"I don't think they thought anyone would take a chance on me," Hamilton said.
The Reds realized the risk but didn't go into it blindly.
"You do as much background work as you can and you make a decision," Krivsky said. "There's risk in everything you do. I'm not sure there's ever been a one-one pick taken in the Rule 5. We feel it's worth the gamble.
"We like his upside still. He's still relatively young at 25."
"One-one" is a reference to Hamilton going with the first pick overall in the 1999 draft.
He was the first high school position player taken first since Alex Rodriguez. That speaks to his talent. Hamilton threw 95 mph as a pitcher. And he had power and speed to go with that remarkable arm. He was a perfect 6-foot-4, 205-pound package of skills.
But all that talent is tempered by the fact that Hamilton missed 31/2 seasons while on the restricted list because of a drug suspension.
Narron's willingness to take on the challenge was a big factor in the Reds taking the risk and getting Hamilton.
"We know he's going to need a lot of support," Narron said. "I talked to him (Thursday). We're having lunch tomorrow. I'm looking forward to it."
Narron first saw Hamilton when he was 15 and playing for Narron's brother Johnny's fall league team.