Hamilton returning focus to baseball
Dealing with ongoing recovery, Rangers slugger looks forward
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Josh Hamilton spoke to the media on Friday for the first time this spring. He brought a Bible with him and used it to quote from 1st Peter, 2nd Corinthians and 1st Philippians.
Hamilton had multiple Bible verses to share while trying to explain where he is in his recovery from a second relapse in his continuing struggle against substance abuse addiction. His basic message was that he continues to get counseling and that he is doing everything he can to get his personal life in order, especially with his family.
"Things have been really good the past three weeks," Hamilton said. "Everything has been better as far as focusing on my family, focusing on my relationship with Christ, talking to the Lord and listening to him more than talking.
"Don't get me wrong. This is an ongoing process and will be until the day I die. But my relationship with my wife and my kids has gotten a hundred times better the last three weeks."
The relapse occurred on Jan. 30 when Hamilton drank alcohol in a Dallas restaurant and bar. The circumstances of what Hamilton was doing that night remain shrouded somewhat in mystery. His main message has been that he is trying to get his family life back in order and repair his relationship with his wife Katie and three daughters.
"For me, it's communication," Hamilton said. "When I'm at the park, I'm on all the time, and when you get home, you shut down, and your relationship with your wife and kids suffer. My commitment needs to be to them and not everybody else. My priorities need to be flipped.
"I haven't been a zombie, but I let circumstances away from the house keep me from communicating with Katie like I should. We're getting counseling and talking through these things. It's not like I'm fixed or healthy, it's a process, but I want to be on the right track and I want to make good decisions."
Also shrouded in mystery is what exactly will happen with Hamilton's contract. He is a free agent after the season and the relapse came at a time when the Rangers were discussing a long-term contract extension with Hamilton's agent, Mike Moye.
Those discussions came to an end with the relapse and have not resumed. Hamilton had previously established the beginning of Spring Training as a deadline for the discussions, but that is no longer in play. He said he will not discuss the contract during the season. Nobody is quite sure if the discussions will resume in Spring Training.
"It's one of those things ... I hate that this happened," Hamilton said. "The Rangers knew the risk when they took me in '08. I've done a lot of good for them and they've been good to me. There are always ways to work things out. I'm not stressed about the contract."
The Rangers want Hamilton to focus on his recovery and getting ready for the season. That does not change the fact that Hamilton, who won the 2010 American League Most Valuable Player Award, can walk away from the Rangers at the end of the season. At some point, that is going to be a major issue.
"I'll leave that up to my agent," Hamilton said. "I'm not going to jump at the first thing offered and say, 'I better get it while I can.'"
Hamilton also has difficulty agreeing with people who believe he owes the Rangers because the organization took a chance on him four years ago and has supported him through two relapses.
"The Rangers have done a lot for me," Hamilton said. "I have a question. Have I done a lot for the Rangers? I think I have given them everything I've got. What it comes down to is, people have to understand this is a business. I love Texas, I love the fans, I love the organization and I love my teammates. But I'm not going to sit here and say I owe the Rangers. I don't feel I owe the Rangers."
So at this point, Hamilton has reported to Spring Training and is working out again with his teammates. His family is with him and Hamilton said the low-pressure atmosphere of Spring Training is their favorite time of year. He has a new partner in special assistant Shayne Kelley, a former college baseball coach who also has deep religious beliefs. Hamilton said they have hit it off well.
Hamilton is also physically healthy. He had surgery on Veterans Day to repair a sports hernia on his left side, and that is not longer an issue.
"The rehab went good," Hamilton said.
He has had to deal with significant injuries in each of the past three seasons, and that may be a bigger factor in contract negotiations than any fear of another relapse in his addiction recovery. His health -- just like his counseling, his family life and his baseball career -- remains a day-to-day proposition. Almost everything with Hamilton is an ongoing process.
But on a cool Friday morning in the desert, Hamilton was all smiles and feeling good, mainly because of what is taking place at home. He said he is trying to move forward and return the focus to the baseball field rather than what happened last month.
"We always have distractions; every Spring Training, there has been something ... now this," Hamilton said. "It's baseball season. We've won the American League championship two years in a row. Let's focus on the positive things that will make us better and help the fans come out to see us."
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.