Gil LeBreton

Texas Rangers fish bowl a familiar pond for Hamilton

Josh Hamilton went 0 for 4 on Monday, but enjoys being back in the baseball routine.
Josh Hamilton went 0 for 4 on Monday, but enjoys being back in the baseball routine. AP

From a wise and caring soul Monday came an analogy, of sorts.

Maybe it’s a myth. Maybe it’s just a fish story.

The observer was recalling the trip to China where he saw goldfish — giant goldfish — frolicking in a pond at his hotel.

When he asked someone how the fish got so big, he was told that a goldfish’s size depends on its environment. A cramped, dime-store bowl will produce a doomed and puny goldfish. A vibrant pond will spawn a robust goldfish.

What better way, the man concluded, to think of this latest Josh Hamilton comeback?

For Hamilton, a return to his favorite, nurturing pond appears to be just days ahead. It is the same pond where he first resurrected his All-Star baseball career. The same, welcoming habitat — the Texas Rangers fish bowl — where he blossomed into one of the best players in baseball.

Who knows what really happened in California? Hamilton, who went 0 for 4 with three groundouts and a strikeout for the Round Rock Express on Monday night, has declined to offer specifics — if he even understands them himself.

He left Texas after the 2012 season as a .285-hitting All Star outfielder, with 43 home runs, 128 RBIs and a .930 OPS. Two years later, the Angels sent him away after he hit only 10 homers and batted .263 in a half-season.

Hamilton left in 2012 with a seemingly loving wife clutching his side. Two years later, he has asked for a divorce and a custody fight looms for the right to see his children.

“The last couple of years haven’t been what I wanted them to be,” Hamilton said. “As a player, knowing what I’m capable of being, I haven’t been that guy.

“Some of it was due to distractions away from the field. Those are being resolved.”

Part of the rehab — he had shoulder surgery in February — is a return to the daily routine at the ball park. He said he revels in the preparation, the socializing with his new Triple A teammates, the batting practice, the sweat.

For a guy who was sometimes accused of lacking it, the focus is there. In Monday’s game, Hamilton sprinted to the wall in left-center to flag down a long drive by Nashville’s Jason Pridie. On Sunday, it was a simple play — Hamilton hustling all the way from left field to back up a possible throw from first to third.

“Let’s prepare — let’s go out and have a quality day on the field,” Hamilton said of his daily checklist. “I’m just focusing on that and on my four daughters, because that’s right where I need to be.”

Not even his closest advisers, however, know exactly how Hamilton will handle the coming divorce case. This is a player, after all, whose batting eye has been flustered in the past by, among other things, daytime games, energy drinks and quitting chewing tobacco.

When he returned to Arlington two seasons ago in an Angels uniform, Hamilton also admitted that the unruly reception unsettled him.

“I wasn’t bashing the fans,” he said, “but some of the comments I made came across in a different way than I wanted them to. That’s probably my biggest regret.

“We had some great times together. I’m hoping they remember that.”

His return to Arlington remains undecided. It will take time, he knows, to shake the rust from an eight-month layoff.

But a welcoming and familiar pond awaits Josh Hamilton.

“It’s a good place to come back to,” he said Monday.

“I have no expectations but to have fun. If I do that and have a smile on my face, the results are going to be there.”

The comeback, part two, heads to Round Rock on Tuesday night.

Gil LeBreton, 817-390-7697

Twitter: @gilebreton

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