Day 6·Q&A

From MLB to MD: Former baseball player Mark Hamilton begins his medical career in midst of a pandemic

Mark Hamilton won a World Series ring playing with the St. Louis Cardinals in 2011. After his baseball career was over, he went to medical school. This month begins his second career as a doctor in New York — a city still struggling with COVID-19.

'While you never want to be released ... it actually worked out perfectly,' said Hamilton

Mark Hamilton at work with Northwell Health on Long Island in New York. (Submitted by Mark Hamilton)

Mark Hamilton won a World Series ring in unusual fashion as a member of the St. Louis Cardinals in 2011.

This week, in a major career transition, he begins his residency as a physician in New York City – a city hard hit by COVID-19.

Hamilton was a backup first baseman for the Cardinals for half of the 2011 season, but was playing in the Dominican Republic when the team won the World Series. He still received a World Series ring.

After a few years of playing internationally and in the minor league system, Hamilton was released. He retired from baseball in 2014. 

"While you never want to be released and it definitely hurts, it actually worked out perfectly. The timing of it couldn't have been better," he said.

Hamilton #64 of the St. Louis Cardinals fields a ground ball against the Colorado Rockies at Busch Stadium on Oct. 2, 2010 in St. Louis, Mo. (Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

He had a plan: go back to university and, eventually, go to medical school.

Hamilton spoke with Day 6 host Brent Bambury about making the shift MLB to MD.

Ten years ago, you made your Major League Baseball debut. And then this month, you're making your debut as a doctor. Which one feels like the better fit for Mark Hamilton?

You know, I think the truth is that they're both a good fit for me. They're both a big part of who I am, and a big part of my journey and my story.

When I was young, my father was a very prominent researcher in oncology and pathology, and I always wanted to be a physician. My grandfather was a professional basketball player for several years in the precursor of the NBA, and I always wanted to play professional sports. 

I'm glad I was able to play baseball while I was young. It's a young man's game, and you can't continue playing it forever. And now I'm glad that I can go into a medical career that I can continue practising for the rest of my life.

Your residency is in New York, and this is a city that's been hit hard by COVID-19. You're starting off in internal medicine. What types of patients do you think you'll be working with?

I anticipate there being a lot of COVID patients still. I know that, you know, our hospitals here have discharged several thousand already. They've done an incredible job.

I'm with Northwell Health, which is the largest health-care employer in the Northeast. And we have a lot of COVID patients remaining, some that have been sick for a while, who have needed intensive care that hopefully, you know, we're anticipating or hoping moving them along to recovery.

And we are well aware that this isn't over, especially in population density like New York. We're anticipating having continued new cases, and we're expecting those people to come in the door.

Hamilton with his 2 daughters. (Submitted by Mark Hamilton.)

When you were in baseball you spent a long time on the road. You didn't get to see your family as much as you would have wanted.

But now you're going to be working in this field and then coming home to your family, your wife, your two young daughters. Are you concerned for their safety because of the COVID infections?

It's definitely a concern. It's something we're going to try to mitigate a little bit.

My kids and wife are going to go up to my in-laws in Connecticut at the beginning of my residency, and that'll give me a little bit of time to kind of get my feet under me, see how many COVID patients I'm directly in contact with, and kind of let them be at a distance for a short period of time there. And then we'll make a decision from there. 

Obviously, I'd want to see them every day. One of the biggest things [when I played baseball] was how much I was away. It's been wonderful being home for these last six years and in school and seeing them all the time. But at the same time, you know, safety is paramount.

Hamilton poses with his father Stanley Hamilton, also a doctor, who inspired him to go into medicine. (Submitted by Mark Hamilton)

I'm wondering what it feels like to be starting your medical career during a global pandemic. Is there any way that this could be an advantage for you? Does it feel like this is a challenge that is going to require dexterity?

Yeah, I mean, absolutely. I think that there's a lot of things to navigate with this.

We've seen it before, actually. And there's been a lot of people writing about it lately, which is: people that enter medicine during a dire time, during a time of uncertainty, typically kind of get forged in the fire more rapidly. I'm hoping that's the case for me.

One of your baseball heroes is former Yankee Bobby Brown. What made you a fan of Bobby Brown?

So, that was my dad's doing. When I was young, my dad really inspired me with his work. But also, clearly I had an affinity for baseball.

It was clear at an early age that I was at the very least going to have an opportunity to play collegiately, if not beyond. And he really fostered this idea that I could do both. 

Hamilton plays against the Atlanta Braves at Roger Dean Stadium on March 12, 2012 in Jupiter, Florida. (Marc Serota/Getty Images)

And his role model he supplied me with is Bobby Brown, who played for the Yankees, won a couple of World Series with them, and went on to become a doctor. [He] went to Tulane Medical School and was a cardiologist for a long time. [He] was also the president American League. 

And I'll tell you, one of the best experiences of my entire life has actually come out of this situation, where I've gone into medicine and gotten a little bit of press with my graduation.

Tulane University Alumni Association actually reached out to me, and I was able to have a conversation with Bobby Brown about two weeks ago. And we spoke on the phone for about two hours discussing baseball, his career and my career, medicine, listening to his advice about how to go about things. And it was really incredibly special to go full circle.

Written and produced by Laurie Allan. Q&A edited for length and clarity.

To hear the full interview with Mark Hamilton, download our podcast or click Listen above.

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