- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 15, 2008

NEW YORK (AP) | Josh Hamilton dreamed it. Now he has done it.

With a dazzling display of power Monday night, the Texas Rangers slugger hit a record 28 homers in the first round of the All-Star Home Run Derby at Yankee Stadium before he was beaten out by Minnesota’s Justin Morneau in the finals.

Morneau topped a tired Hamilton 5-3 in the last round, giving him the derby title. But the night belonged to Hamilton.

Back from drug and alcohol addiction that derailed his career, Hamilton broke Bobby Abreu’s mark for one round. Abreu hit 24 home runs in the first round in 2005 at Detroit’s Comerica Park.

Hamilton’s incredible tale of redemption has made national news this season, and he retold a story Monday afternoon about a vivid dream he had two years ago - he was being interviewed at Yankee Stadium after participating in the Home Run Derby.

“I can say it was a coincidence, but I don’t believe in those,” he said.

Mind you, his dream came while Hamilton was still banned from Major League Baseball and before this year’s All-Star Game was awarded to the venerable ballpark in its final season.

“Obviously, the dream, I didn’t know how many I would hit,” Hamilton said in a TV interview after his huge first-round performance. “I just feel blessed to have played here.”

With the crowd of 53,716 chanting his name, undoubtedly warmed by his improbable journey to stardom, Hamilton connected on 13 consecutive cuts before falling short of the fences on his final two.

“I got chills,” he said.

With his smooth left-handed swing, Hamilton seemed a natural choice to take advantage of Yankee Stadium’s short right-field porch. But he cleared the fences with ease, hitting three shots farther than 500 feet - including his longest of 518.

“I was lucky that we got reset,” Morneau said. “This was his show. He deserved to win it. That was one of the best performances I’ve ever seen.”

Hamilton, who leads the majors with 95 RBI, is one of 28 first-time All-Stars on the rosters for Tuesday night’s game. Hamilton, who was voted to the starting lineup by the fans, will start in center field and bat third for the American League.

In the offseason, Hamilton was traded by the Cincinnati Reds to the Rangers for pitcher Edinson Volquez, who made the NL All-Star team.

“It’s like being a little kid in a candy store,” Hamilton said earlier in the day. “You don’t know which way to go and who to say ‘Hey’ to. I’m just very excited.”

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