Everyone knows Josh Hamilton's story by now. Top draft pick gets into a car accident, can't play baseball and turns to alcohol and cocaine.
Now, he's in the midst of what could be called one of the greatest life comebacks of all time, launching home run after home run into the Bronx sky at the Home Run Derby last night.
So is it time for corporate America to jump on Hamilton?
Hamilton has a group of small deals all that are up after the end of this year, according to his agent Michael Moye.
He plays with a Rawlings glove, wears a Franklin batting glove and exclusively endorses the Verdero Bat Company (though he looked to be using a Louisville Slugger last night). Nikegives him shoes, but they don't pay him a dime. He has an exclusive autograph deal with a company called Lojo Sports that also runs out at the end of the year.
"This is a marathon and we're very protective of not losing sight of that," Moye said. "In the beginning, we said we'd wait until the off-season to look at things, but if there's some association that works out before that, we'll obviously take a look at it. I've been doing this for 25 years and it's certainly the most amazing story I've ever come across."
Despite his big numbers--a .310 batting average, 21 home runs and 95 RBI--Hamilton really introduced himself to the sports world last night at the Home Run Derby, where he launched a record 28 home runs in the first round.
"The baseball junkies definitely knew Josh, but I think America learned who he was last night," Moye said. "The phone has definitely been ringing."
The key question is whether Hamilton is still seen as a risk. Is his comeback story complete enough? Does his association with cocaine knock him out of the running for many blue chip brands?
One thing is for sure, collectors are really believing in Hamilton. "Given the way the economy is, everything seems to be a tough said," said Mark Heller of Lojo Sports, based in Montreal. "But the demand for Josh has just been phenomenal." Heller said Hamilton last did a private signing for the company two and a half weeks ago in New York and could barely get all the items he needed to have signed in the three hours Hamilton allotted.
As of 11:20 am ET, Hamilton items on eBay were selling for an average of $43.54, an all-time single day high. Signed baseballs are selling for more than $200 and his autographed 1999 Topps rookie cards have been skyrocketing to north of $300. Hamilton's salary this year is $396,830.
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