Saturday, August 15, 2009
ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) -- All-star outfielder Josh Hamilton wasn't even slightly nervous about facing the home crowd for the first time since revealing he slipped one night in January in his struggle for sobriety.
Hamilton started in right field for the Texas Rangers in Friday night's 8-4 loss to the Boston Red Sox. He was near the stands where the former No. 1 draft pick inspired hundreds of fans last year with his story of recovery from drug and alcohol addiction that almost ended his career before it really started.
The two-time All-Star returned home six days after he faced reporters in Anaheim, Calif., to address photos of him with several women in a bar that had surfaced on the Internet. He said it was the first time he'd had a drink since Oct. 6, 2005.
"If I go out there and I get something I totally don't expect then I'll be shocked because I haven't gotten it on the road," Hamilton said before Friday night's game between the top two teams in the AL wild card.
The crowd offered warm greetings all night for Hamilton, who went 2 for 3 with a walk.
Hamilton said most opposing fans have been steadfast in their support over the past week. The Rangers played the Angels twice and had a three-game series at Cleveland before coming home.
"I've still got people screaming my name and calling me over and telling me how much of an inspiration I am ... and just encouraging me to move forward and don't listen to the people who are going to try to keep me living in the past," Hamilton said.
When he met with reporters last week, Hamilton said he planned to apologize to his teammates. Since then, he said they told him they didn't need an apology.
"It lets me know I'm in the right place," Hamilton said. "It's more than just a game. It's people's lives. We generally care for each other as people more so than baseball players."
Hamilton's wife, Katie, shared the bullpen stage with him last year during the testimonial in front of Rangers fans. She has offered her support again this week, responding to critical fans in the online reader response section of The Dallas Morning News.
"We are trying to tell people not what to think but how we think," Hamilton said. "She needs the outlet, too, sometimes to share what she's feeling."
Hamilton's hottest stretch of the season has coincided with the revelation of the bar incident. He was 9 for 12 in the Cleveland series, including his first four-hit game of the season. His average has climbed to .260 after he started August hitting .227.
Rangers manager Ron Washington dropped Hamilton, normally his No. 3 hitter, as low as seventh in the order during the slump. He was back up to fifth on Friday, and Washington is contemplating returning him to his familiar spot.
"He's certainly looking like the Josh of old," Washington said. "I'd still like to see him continue to play a few more games against these tough teams. Right now, I'm certainly happy with what we're seeing."
The Rangers knew about the bar incident the day after it happened, and general manager Jon Daniels said it had little to do with failed contract talks with Hamilton earlier this year. Hamilton's deal is worth $555,000 with several performance-based incentives. He will be eligible for salary arbitration for the first time this offseason.
"It's the reality of his life," Daniels said of Hamilton's battle with sobriety. "But we're certainly not going to belabor the point. We've put some measures in place to help him work through it. Other than that, we're focused on the pennant race."