Much of the talk about Josh Hamilton since he was reacquired by the Texas Rangers has focused on his support system and how things are going to be like the good old days.
Happy Josh and a Josh who is on the right path led to some pretty good baseball, even when he appeared to have checked out in 2012, and the Rangers’ hope is that it can happen again.
Even Hamilton said on Tuesday that the system he has put back in place is working and working well, and that’s all that really matters.
“It’s been great so far,” he said.
But gone is the manager who counseled him sometimes on a daily basis, and the teammates he spent the most time with and leaned on the most have moved on to other clubs or into retirement.
Gone, too, is perhaps the key cog in the process, his soon-to-be ex-wife. But that is where the new Hamilton support system takes a turn in the right direction, and that’s not a knock against Katie Hamilton or an endorsement of their impending divorce.
It has more to do with Hamilton’s four daughters and his desire to be a good father to them and not become a dead-beat drug addict they never see. As handy as accountability partner Shayne Kelley and others in the system will be, those four girls will constantly be on his mind.
“I told my [oldest] daughter this: I said, ‘Look, I’m not going to be the same guy [in 2002-2005] I used to be,’” Hamilton said. “I know making that mistake once could end my life, and I don’t want to do that. I’m not a guy that’s going to go out and leave his responsibilities and his family to the curb and not think about them. I’m not going to pursue going out and getting high and drinking.
“It’s something that’s there and will always be there, but I have that choice and I choose today not to do it and not to stay in that place.”
Hamilton said that his focus will be his daughters and baseball, and acknowledged that the divorce has been difficult on him. He said that fans in Nashville started harassing him Monday, and he welcomed it.
He was asked at Dell Diamond before his third Triple A rehab game about his expectations from the Rangers’ fan base, and said he will be the same person he has always been and won’t concern himself with how people respond to him.
“I’m sure there’s some fans out there that are still pissed off that I left,” Hamilton said. “And I’m sure they’re pissed off at mistakes I’ve made. I’m sure there’s some fans pissed off that I keep getting chances to come back and play baseball for a living. I’m sorry you feel pissed off. It’s tough to think about.”
He told the group of 20 or so reporters and cameramen that he has never paid much attention to media reports about him.
Hamilton has a lengthy checklist of things he wants to do each day at the field.
Most of all, he has to maintain his sobriety.
Hamilton has too much on his plate to get caught up in too much drama, like, say, trying to stop chewing tobacco in the middle of the season and feeling as if he had sinned when he couldn’t do it.
“Why do you bring stuff I’ve got to worry about?” he said. “That’s why I’m focusing on my kids and baseball.”
The baseball is going well, Hamilton said. He went 1 for 2 with a two-run single Tuesday after going 1 for 7 since joining Round Rock on Sunday. He said he feels good enough physically to withstand the demands of a big-league game, but he doesn’t want to go to the majors until he finds his timing and a good approach at the plate.
That could be in his next at-bat, or it could be a couple games away. The Rangers are tentatively planning to activate him May 19 at Boston.
“The old me would have been, ‘Let’s go. I’ll figure it out as we go along,’” Hamilton said. “But it’s a different situation coming back. I feel like I need to slow down. I talked with Adrian Beltre and a couple guys, and they said the same thing: ‘Take your time, get your at-bats, and we’ll be waiting for you when you get here.’”
General manager Jon Daniels watched Hamilton as he replaced Mitch Moreland at designated hitter late Tuesday, and spoke to him for the first time since he was acquired April 20 from the Los Angeles Angels.
Hamilton said then what he had always said about the risk that comes with having him under contract, that the risk there every day but he’s committed to remaining sober. Daniels said that the Rangers have no more level of concern than they did when he was a five-time All-Star for them from 2008-2012.
There might be less, and baseball might be a bigger factor than ever.
“For one reason or another, for some temporary period of time, the game is taken away from guys that live their life as competitors on the field,” Daniels said. “It’s eye-opening. That’s why I say … mentally he’s in a really good place.”
That also goes back to his daughters. Any father knows the kind of impact their kids can have on them, and Hamilton is no different.
“I’m in a better place mentally and physically than I definitely was in Anaheim,” he said. “But it’s also been tough. Any time you go through a divorce it’s tough, but the things I’m keying on are my girls and getting things in place with them and trying to create some normalcy in their lives and just love on them as much as I can.”
Jeff Wilson, 817-390-7760