It appeared that Josh Hamilton was about to make amends, ask for forgiveness from Rangers fans and ask them to get on board behind his return to the organization that helped make him one of the biggest stars in baseball.
Hamilton was sitting with Rangers general manager Jon Daniels, making a two-and-a-half minute opening statement during his reunion press conference.
All indications pointed toward a full-throated apology to Rangers fans for his infamous “it’s not a true baseball town” comment in February 2013 after signing with the Los Angeles Angels.
But after his initial declaration to “put to rest” questions that were surely to come, he stopped short of issuing any sort of meaningful mea culpa for fans disgruntled by his return.
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“I’m excited to be back home,” Hamilton said. “I had a lot of good memories here, a lot of ball games won here with the team we had and with you guys cheering us on.
“For me, it’s still been the loudest ballpark I’ve ever played in. The whole ‘baseball town’ thing I’ve got to address. I’ve said some dumb things and I’ll continue to say some dumb things at times.
“I’m not going to sit here and try to clarify all those things I said because we’d be here for a while. But I just want all the fans to know, you know what, I’m back here, I’m back home. I’m going to give you everything I got just like I did when I was here.”
“Hopefully you can continue to get behind this team and here with me adding a little piece of the puzzle and we can start winning some ball games just like we did back in the past. I’m excited about it.”
When asked to clarify whether he was attempting to apologize with his opening statement, he remained a tad reluctant.
“Apologize, clarify ... I mean I’ve explained it many times what I actually meant and I’m not going to do it again here,” he said. “But, you know, yeah, apology, that would be good.”
That’s about where it ended on that front.
On social media, fans were divided on whether an apology was even necessary. Some found Hamilton’s comments insufficient, while others thought it was enough. Still, others are only concerned whether Hamilton can return to the MVP run producer he was from 2008 to 2012.
And the Rangers clearly contend that the move was baseball driven, not a desire to help Hamilton with his personal life, which has involved a well-publicized bout with addiction, an ongoing divorce and injuries. Hamilton was clearly hoping to return to Texas, a place he called home multiple times during his 25-minute shared press conference with Daniels.
“That’s potentially a benefit of it, but that’s not the reason for it,” Daniels said. “This is 100 percent about how we think Josh can help us win games. He can be a productive player again. Obviously, we have a relationship with him, know him, know his family. We want to see him succeed. This is where it ended up and made sense for everybody.”
Daniels said Rangers ownership did not instigate the move to acquire Hamilton. But his battle with addiction is something the organization was well-equipped to deal with during his previous stint.
“I know it’s something he’ll have to deal with the rest of his life,” Daniels said. “And by association, we’re going to help him. You go into it knowing that, for sure. In this particular case, as we viewed it, the reward outweighs the risk. It’s pretty simple.”
Hamilton asked fans to embrace his return “home,” but he admitted he didn’t know how they would treat him once he returns to the major league roster.
“I have no clue how the fans are going to react to me, but it’s got to be better than the first game I played here with the Angels,” he joked. “So anything there up we’re good to go.”
Daniels stopped short of guaranteeing Hamilton will return to former glory, but didn’t rule it out either.
“I can’t sit here and guarantee anything other than I feel good about our chances to get a productive player,” Daniels said. “This guy has been counted out a lot of times. He sat out four years and he came back and was the best player in the game. I’m not saying he is going to perform at that level again. He doesn’t necessarily need to [in order] to help us. Also, some people may think I’m crazy for saying this, but it won’t shock me if he does either.”
Regardless of how the Rangers fan base is taking the news, Hamilton seemed genuinely giddy about being back in Arlington and returning to the Rangers lineup some time in late May.
“Looking back on it now, if I could change the past I would, but I can’t,” Hamilton said. “I can only learn from it. I probably wouldn’t have gone anywhere, I probably would have stayed here. But I can’t change that. I’ve learned things over the last couple of years. I’ll take that forward and try to be a better man, father and player on the field. That’s why I chose here.”