KANSAS CITY -- When a record number of fans voted for Josh Hamilton for the 2012 American League All-Star team, they got even more than a man who may be the best baseball player on the planet.
Hamilton received 11.1 million votes, roughly 50 percent more than any other single player had ever received. Naturally, this was a topic of interest Monday at the All-Star interview session for the Texas Rangers outfielder.
"It means a lot," Hamilton said of the overwhelming public support. "It's very humbling, but at the same time it makes you proud that the fans want to see you play, that they take time out of their busy lives to watch you and vote for you.
"I think they understand who I am and what I stand for, that I love Jesus. I hope they understand that when they're voting for me, because what better place to talk about Him than big events?"
And Hamilton went on to say, with his ever-present candor, that this was how he saw this particular media session, as an opportunity to testify for his faith.
At one point he was asked about the difficulty of combining faith with fame, and he responded:
"Oh, man, whether you believe it or not, it's very easy for me. Understanding where I was before Christ came into my life, understanding where I am now and staying humble is not very hard for me to do. I just use this as a bigger platform to share Christ with people. That's what it's about. Whatever gift you have, no matter what it is, it's all for God's glory. I'm just excited to be here, again, and be able to share Him with a lot of people."
The questions weren't all metaphysical. What about a new contract? Will Hamilton stay with Texas? Will he move on into free agency?
"Why are you so serious all the time?" he asked the reporter with the contract question. "I haven't thought about the contract one bit. I'll keep saying it. I'm praying about it. My wife's praying about it. I love Texas. We'd love to stay in Texas. But obviously we put the talks, as a mutual agreement, on hold between us and the club, until the season's over. When the season's over, we'll restart them. So it's not like we're going to run off into free agency and give everybody a shot before the Rangers. There's that loyalty there. But right now I'm just focusing on the task at hand. I'm under contract to the Rangers. And I'm going to do everything I can to help the team win. I appreciate the fans and all the support they've been giving. They [the Rangers] have the first shot, man."
The rest of Hamilton's life is an open book, which is the way he wants it. His journey to the far depths of substance abuse was a matter of public record, and every time he has a relapse, however brief, that also becomes news.
It may be that people can identify with Hamilton as somebody who has been a long way from perfect in portions of his life, but also somebody who has made the effort to turn his life around.
"I think people understand that I'm real," Hamilton said. "I make mistakes, just like they do and they can relate to that. Maybe it touches them in a different way than somebody they don't hear from much or somebody whose story isn't out there as much.
"People might say, 'You're a hypocrite for sharing God and then doing something wrong.' I'm not perfect. I know what my standards are, I know what I want to accomplish, I know my relationship with Christ and that's all that I can do. ... God wants you to learn from those mistakes you've made. ... It only makes your testimony stronger. I'm not trying to make mistakes, but when I do make them, I learn from them and I share that with people."
Hamilton is a unique figure within the game of baseball in more ways than one. There is little doubt that Hamilton's all-out style of play makes him even more of a fan favorite. He plays baseball, he says, with the same enthusiasm he had when he was "a little kid," although he now acknowledges that he should run into fewer walls.
Every aspect of Hamilton's public persona is pointed in the same direction, including his walk-up music before each at-bat. Hamilton makes his choices from a wide range of contemporary Christian music.
"Oh, man, I'm a big music guy," Hamilton said. "When I come up to the plate I like to pick out a message, I pick out like a 10-second window in each song, of what message I want to send to the fans. So when I walk up there it's not for me to listen to and get fired up, it's for everybody to understand what Christ has done, what I believe in and what I stand for."
That was the message, specifically and generally of All-Star interview day with Josh Hamilton. Hamilton turned this event into a platform for his religious beliefs, but as usual, he was completely up-front about his intention to do exactly that.
Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com.