Did Josh Hamilton’s Coach Lie About Bar Photos?

David Ortiz has got to be thrilled with the way today unfolded. But for the sudden presence of the immediately-infamous Josh Hamilton photos, his press conference today would’ve been the most talked-about story in sports. As is, he’s basically off the hook for now as the sports world digests the surprising photos and even more surprising admission from Hamilton, given the way most sports figures handle unflattering news these days (DENY DENY DENY).

Johnny Narron Josh Hamilton

Unfortunately, one thing that may get lost in all this Hamilton scorn/praise is the extremely curious reaction to the photos by Hamilton’s personal advisor/coach/chaperone, Johnny Narron, who, as Hamilton’s religious mentor deserves scrutiny in the face of DEADSPIN’s questioning.

Narron has been Hamilton’s right-hand-man and spiritual rock since Hamilton returned to baseball in 2007. By his own admission, both in a 2008 SPORTS ILLUSTRATED article and today on DEADSPIN, Hamilton is rarely out of Narron’s sight; they “stay in adjoining hotel rooms and often have Bible study while other players and coaches are out at restaurants and bars.”

DEADSPIN has been working on this story for months, as AJ Daulerio noted when he posted the Hamilton photos, and has spoken to numerous different sources both on the side of the photos and that of Hamilton and the Texas Rangers. Yesterday, as they were preparing for the photos’ publication, DEADSPIN’s Tommy Craggs gave Narron an opportunity to respond, and today he wrote:

Narron hasn’t seen any evidence of a backslide. We spoke on Friday afternoon. Only the night before, he tells me, Hamilton had gone out with teammates Dustin Nippert, Derek Holland, David Murphy. Upon returning, he popped into Narron’s room and announced, “Hey, I’m back.”

“I would just be shocked if [the photos] have any validity,” Narron says. “He’s obviously high-profile. A lot of people are pulling for him, and some people would like to see him fail. There are all types. We deal with the negative comments, take it and move on.

This was clearly not the case, as the photos proved and Hamilton himself confirmed. However, it’s fair to say that Hamilton is a grown-ass man and does not have his mentor following him around every moment of every day, especially in the off-season. If Narron was truly duped by Hamilton or Hamilton had hidden his relapse from his closest friend and spiritual advisor, that’s between them.

Things aren’t that cut and dried, however. This afternoon, the Rangers held a press conference to address the photos. According to MLB.COM, Hamilton claimed the team was already aware of the event:

Hamilton said he woke up the next morning and realized what he had done was wrong. He immediately called his wife and admitted what he had done. That was the hardest part.

“It hurts me a lot to do something in the eyes of the Lord that is wrong and I’ve done something wrong,” Hamilton said. “But the biggest thing is Katie. That stirs up a lot of feelings. It’s tough. Obviously Katie and I have a strong relationship and I hate that I put her through this.”

He also called Rangers general manager Jon Daniels and Major League Baseball immediately afterward. Ultimately, he met with doctors and counselors as well as the Rangers to address the situation. Because he did not test positive for banned substances, no punitive measures were taken either by the club or Major League Baseball.

And yet, just yesterday Johnny Narron claimed no knowledge whatsoever of the incident, and declared the photos either years-old or doctored. This leaves two basic options:

  1. Johnny Narron, Josh Hamilton’s religious mentor and advisor, lied to DEADSPIN.
  2. Johnny Narron, Josh Hamilton’s closest advisor and friend - and an employee of the Texas Rangers - was lied to by Josh Hamilton and kept in the dark by the team’s front office…despite the fact that his entire role with the team is to keep Hamilton on the straight and narrow.

Either way, someone’s lying here, which is unfortunate in a situation that could have and should have been, as the President might say, a “teachable moment.” The 2008 SPORTS ILLUSTRATED profile of Hamilton makes clear that the slugger and his mentor are fond of quoting Bible verses; we suggest they take a moment and read Exodus 20:16, “thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.”