The final picture Darryl Hamilton posted to his Facebook page was of himself and his two oldest sons.
In the black-and-white photo, Darryl, the Baton Rouge native, University High graduate and 13-year major league veteran, sits to the left of his boys. All three of them are wearing baseball jerseys with their last name across the back.
The photo was posted at 8 a.m. Sunday.
Hamilton’s old teammate, Joey Furr, saw the photo on Facebook that afternoon.
He gave it a thumbs-up.
“Most of his posts,” Furr said, “were about his sons.”
Fast-forward to Monday. Furr was driving home from a business meeting in Lafayette when an email popped into his phone.
That’s when he heard news that hit far too close to home: Hamilton had been shot to death in an apparent murder-suicide at his girlfriend’s house outside Houston late Sunday afternoon.
Police in Pearland, Texas, said the bodies of Hamilton, 50, and Monica Jordan, 44, were found inside the house Sunday afternoon, the Houston Chronicle reported.
When police officers arrived, they found Hamilton’s body near the front entry way. Jordan’s body was found in another part of the home, the Chronicle reported.
Victim in a murder-suicide?
This was a guy who took goofy selfies inside the MLB Network studios where he worked an analyst; a guy who came home and hosted youth baseball camps; a guy with an ever-present smile; a guy who drew near-universal praise and emotion from ex-colleagues and friends once they heard about his death.
Said Chris Collins, an old friend and U-High classmate: “I didn’t have a brother. He was like a brother to me. ... I’m in shock, more than anything. Upset. Just lost right now. Not sure how to deal with it.”
It was a shocking end to a colorful, accomplished life.
Hamilton — who didn’t play baseball at U-High because it didn’t field a team — walked on at Nicholls State and became one of the most accomplished players in school history, then spent 13 seasons in the majors.
Hamilton was drafted in 1986 by the Milwaukee Brewers and made the big-league team in 1988. He played with the Brewers until 1995, then moved on to Texas (1996), San Francisco (1997-98), Colorado (1998-99) and the New York Mets (1999-2001).
He had a career .291 average and scored 707 runs. Known as a great defensive outfielder, he committed only 14 errors in those 13 seasons.
“Still in shock,” said Furr, whose dad, Gerald, was a longtime coach at U-High who had a special place in his heart for Hamilton. “He was nice to everybody, and everybody was nice to him.
“This is just unfathomable.”
Those statements seemed to resonate with anyone who knew him.
Hamilton’s father, John Sr., coached baseball at McKinley, but Darryl and his brother John Jr. — who later played basketball at Nicholls — attended U-High because of its strong academic reputation.
Darryl’s only baseball experience came in summer leagues. At U-High, he ran track, played basketball and was a star receiver and safety on the football team.
Nicholls State recruited him as a football player. In 1981, while on a trip to Nicholls, he watched a game from the sideline.
“I had a couple of offers to play football. But I’ll never forget when I went on a (football) recruiting trip to Nicholls,” Hamilton said in 2008. “We were standing down on the sideline watching the game and they were hitting pretty good, and this was a Division I-AA school.
“I said, ‘You know what? This football thing isn’t for me,’ ” he said with a laugh. “That cemented the baseball deal right there.”
In other words, he gambled on himself.
And it worked out well.
Mike Knight, Nicholls’ baseball coach from 1980-96, once said he planned to use Hamilton as a courtesy runner for the catcher, which was allowed back then. Knight soon realized Hamilton was much more valuable.
He stole a school-record 140 bases and scored 193 runs from 1984-86, prompting the Brewers to draft him in the 11th round after his junior year.
“I’m not a guy that was a superstar. I just wanted to be a guy everyone enjoyed having on the team,” Hamilton said in 2008, the year he was inducted to the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame. “I tried to play hard and keep everyone loose. I didn’t want people to say that I went out there and didn’t give it everything I had. So it’s been a good ride.”
Ari Fisher, who attended U-High just after Hamilton graduated, used to hear all sorts of stories about Hamilton from the coaching staff — about his speed, his hand-eye coordination and so on. More often, though, the stories were about how Hamilton wanted to learn, improve and be a great teammate.
Gerald Furr often simply referred to him as “Happy” or “Smiley.”
“Always had a smile on his face. Always,” Collins said. “Like the cat that just ate the bird. Unless you really knew him, you could never tell if he was happy or sad. But he always had the smile on his face.”
Fisher, for his part, was like most others Monday: shocked, stunned, at a loss for what to do. He texted John Hamilton.
“I don’t know what to say,” Fisher wrote, “except that I’m sorry.”
Darryl Hamilton, who was divorced twice, is survived by his brother John Jr., sister Adrian; parents John Sr. and Geraldine; two sons, Donovan and Julian, from his marriage to Ursaline Steinke; and his 13-month-old son, whom he had with his girlfriend, Jordan.
“For this to happen to this family, it’s just a shame,” Joey Furr said. “I remember when he was playing for the Brewers, we met him for breakfast out in Oakland. He was still so humble.
“He said, ‘I’m living a dream. I’ve been very lucky and very blessed.’ ”