ARLINGTON, Texas -- Typically a slow starter, Josh Hamilton has opened his contract year on a hot streak of historical proportions around these parts.
His solo shot that landed several rows deep in the right-center field seats was Hamilton’s eighth homer of the season, or a few more than he had in the last few Aprils combined. No Ranger has hit that many homers this quickly in a season, with Hamilton hitting No. 8 in the 17th game, one sooner than Alex Rodriguez in 2002. The club record for April is nine, which has been done four times, most recently by Ian Kinsler in 2007.
“When they’re making mistakes, he’s not missing them,” Rangers manager Ron Washington said. “I’ve seen him locked in before. I just hope he keeps it up.”
Here’s the really scary part of Hamilton’s hot start: He doesn’t really feel like he’s locked in yet.
“At times, I feel like I’m lost, to be honest with you,” Hamilton said.
Hamilton leads the league with eight homers, ranks second with 18 RBIs and is third with a .408 batting average. How many guys would love to feel lost while putting up Triple Crown-caliber numbers?
“I’m not saying the majority of time I don’t feel better than not,” Hamilton said. “It all goes back to trying not to create anything or make anything happen more so than what needs to happen. You know, I’ve battled that my whole career and finally come to the realization that -- you know what? -- I don’t have to try to make anything happen. Just go up there and have a good at-bat.”
Hamilton insists he isn’t any more motivated or focused this season due to his uncertain future than in past years. He’s just more experienced.
Hamilton is so freakishly talented that it feels like he hasn’t come close to reaching his potential even though he owns an MVP trophy from 2010, when he led the majors with a .359 average while hitting 32 homers and driving in 100 runs. He seems capable of much more than the career-best 130 RBIs he had in 2008, leading the American League.
But that isn’t how Hamilton sees it. He figures the numbers -- certainly statistics, perhaps finances -- will take care of themselves if he can stay healthy.
“The biggest thing I’ve learned over the last few years is not looking at the big picture but focusing on that one-day-at-a-time mentality,” said Hamilton, who has played more than 133 games only once in his previous five seasons. “What have I gotta do today to come to the ballpark to get myself ready and help myself feel good enough to play?
“Right now, I feel good physically. As the season goes on, you start feeling worse. Well, right now they’re starting to feel better and better. I attribute that to experience and starting to learn your body more. I didn’t get the luxury -- and it’s my own fault -- of playing in the minor leagues and understanding what it takes to feel good every day. I’ve had to learn that over the past three, four, five years. It’s a process, man.”
The process couldn’t have gotten off to a much better start this season. Not that Hamilton is interested in digging too deep with analysis of his hot start and what could be to come.
“Helps the confidence starting off hot,” Hamilton said. “Helps you relax a little bit and go out and play.”
Hamilton’s sole goal: go out and play every day, or at least close to it. If that happens, who knows what kind of record-breaking numbers Hamilton can put up? Especially if he ever really feels like he’s locked in.