On Friday, under an accelerated schedule prompted by dire circumstances, former big leaguer Mark Hamilton is set to graduate a month early from medical school on Long Island.
Next stop for the rookie doc, the first-hand fight against the coronavirus pandemic in one of the world’s hardest-hit areas.
The 35-year-old Hamilton spent the first half of the 2011 season with the Cardinals. He subbed for slugger Albert Pujols a few times and even got a winning hit that ultimately helped St. Louis squeeze into the playoffs by one game.
The left-handed hitter who played 47 games in the majors will join another lineup once he leaves the Donald and Barbara Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell.
Hall of Famer Tony La Russa, Hamilton’s manager with the Cards, said quote - “That’s a great story, what Mark’s done. That’ll be a high point at this period."
Far fewer have earned the title in the classroom -- including Moonlight Graham, the real-life ballplayer-turned-doctor portrayed in the film “Field of Dreams.”
Perhaps the most prominent was Bobby Brown, an October star for the New York Yankees in the 1940s and ’50s who also was a military veteran, president of the American League and longtime cardiologist.
It’s a path Hamilton -- who played at Tulane, as did Brown -- planned on long ago.
Hamilton’s father, Stanley, was the longtime head of pathology and laboratory medicine at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. He currently holds the same position at the City of Hope center in Southern California.
A 6-foot-4 power hitter, Hamilton helped Tulane reach the 2005 College World Series. The next year, he was a second-round draft pick by the Cardinals.
In September 2010, Hamilton got the call to the majors and posted his first two hits. In 2011, he stayed with St. Louis almost all the way to the All-Star break, mostly as a pinch hitter.
Hamilton’s highlight came on July 4 before a big crowd at Busch Stadium. Batting for ace Chris Carpenter with two outs and a runner on third in the eighth inning of a scoreless game, his infield single off Johnny Cueto gave the Cardinals a 1-0 win over Cincinnati.
Within a week, Hamilton was sent back to Triple-A for good. He spent parts of the next three years in the St. Louis, Boston (getting a big welcoming hug from David Ortiz) and Atlanta organizations
After nine productive pro seasons that included over 100 home runs in the minors, he was release
d in July 2014, three days before his 30th birthday.
Hamilton’s final major league stats, including time as a left fielder and designated hitter: 12 for 61 (.197) with three doubles, four RBIs and five runs scored.
Plus, a World Series ring that he says he rarely wears.
Hamilton plans to enter the field of interventional radiology. But before that, his first year as an internal medicine resident is certain to be dominated by the virus outbreak, managing patients admitted at Long Island Jewish Medical Center and North Shore University Hospital in the Northwell Health system. He’ll also spend elective weeks in the ICU.
Hamilton lives in Queens, about a 15-minute drive from the New York Mets’ home at Citi Field, with wife Lauren and their 9- and 6-year-old daughters.