Josh Hamilton: I don't owe Rangers
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Rangers slugger Josh Hamilton said Friday that he's pleased with the progress he's made in counseling since his alcohol relapse more than three weeks ago and that he isn't concerned about his long-term contract situation.
Hamilton also said he doesn't believe that he owes the club any kind of hometown discount.
"The Rangers have done a lot for me, but I've got a question for y'all: Have I done a lot for the Rangers? I think I've given them everything I've had," Hamilton said. "I don't think anybody can say I haven't. When it comes down to it, people don't understand, fans don't understand, this is a business, this is an entertainment business.
"I love Texas. I love my fans. I love fans of the Rangers. I love the organization. I love my teammates. I love everything about it. But I'm not going to sit here and say that I owe the Rangers. I don't feel like I owe the Rangers."
Hamilton and the club agreed to table contract negotiations after his relapse more than three weeks ago. He indicated it was doubtful talks would commence during the season and he said that his agent, Mike Moye, would handle that.
"I've done a lot of good here, and they've been good to me, too," Hamilton said. "There's always ways to work things out. You know what, I'm not stressing over a long-term contract because I know I'll be playing baseball.
"Put it this way: I'm not going to jump at the first thing offered. I'm not in a situation, 'No, I feel like this might happen to me, I better get what I can get when I can get it.' I don't feel that way. I feel very confident in my sobriety, I feel very confident in my relationship with Christ and my family supporting me, and the Rangers supporting me. They've been there for a while. It's been good."
Hamilton said that he can't base his contract situation purely on where he likes to play baseball.
"It's about how many more years do I have left to play, and what's going to go on and what's going to happen after I finish playing the game," he said. "This is a life thing, folks. This is not a baseball thing."
Hamilton said he's receiving one-on-one counseling and also is in counseling with his wife, Katie. He spoke for 37 minutes with the media Friday, arriving with a Bible in hand and quoting six verses from it during the news conference.
"Don't get me wrong, this is going to be an ongoing process until the day I die," Hamilton said. "So it's never going to stop. The relationships in my house with my kids, my wife, all those things, have gotten 100 times better just in three weeks. I see where I want to be. I hate that it keeps taking relapses or taking my own power back to seeing where I need to be, but it has."
Hamilton, who arrived in Surprise for his first workout Thursday, had a relapse with alcohol a little more than three weeks ago at two Dallas-area restaurants/bars. The day after the news broke, Hamilton talked for 12 minutes without a script and apologized for his actions, though he didn't take questions.
On Friday, several of Hamilton's teammates said they support him and hope that he continues to get the help he needs to avoid another relapse. That included Ian Kinsler, who was with Hamilton for part of that night. Hamilton has made it clear that he didn't drink in front of Kinsler and that he went back to a bar after Kinsler left.
"Josh is completely open with the situation," Kinsler said. "The day and age we're in, it seems like you need to rehash things over and over again. I'm sure it's not fun for him, so we're going to be here to support him as best we can and make it as easy as possible for him."
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Kinsler said the Rangers have become good at moving on from any distractions or difficult off-field situations. The second baseman added he just "wanted the truth out there and Josh took care of that."
"I'm worried about playing baseball right now," Kinsler said. "I'm worried about supporting Josh in this whole thing. Right now, it's pretty much behind both of us, pretty much behind our team. We've dealt with things like this in the past and it's really been no problem. As far as people's opinions, that's something we can't control."
Hamilton said he's already established a good relationship with Shayne Kelley, who was hired as the staff assistant with the main responsibility of supporting Hamilton. Kelley, who was recommended by Hamilton's agent, also will travel with the team on the road.
"He's been around sports a long time and he loves the Lord just like I do," Hamilton said. "The relationship is there already. We've spent a little time together already. He's there to help me."
Kelley accompanied Hamilton to New York a few weeks ago to see doctors with MLB and the MLBPA. Hamilton said his relapse didn't violate his reinstatement agreement with MLB, which he said deals with drugs. Hamilton is still getting tested three times a week for drug use and he said the doctors supported his idea of going through counseling.
Hamilton said he does a good job of trying to make fans feel special at spring training and at games, but that he wasn't doing a good enough job of doing that at home. His focus now is to go home and open up with his four daughters and his wife as well.
"I can't shut down," Hamilton said. "When I get quiet, the walls are up. I can't do that."
He said his family has always had a close-knit bond at spring training, so he believes the timing will be good to keep the communication going as it has the past three weeks.
Hamilton said after his previous public relapse in January 2009 in Tempe, Ariz., he put a "Band-Aid" on it and tried to move on. Now, he's working to identify why it's happening and how he can avoid it in the future.
"I don't like doing this," Hamilton said. "I don't like continually making mistakes. It's not every day, but it jumps up and bites me. I don't want that to happen again. Let's get a good foundation as far as talking about things, life things. ... I don't want this to continually happen. I really don't."
Rangers manager Ron Washington said he isn't worried about Hamilton and that it won't serve as a distraction for the team.
"He's going to get prepared for the season and compete and that's what we're all about and that's what he's all about," Washington said. "We're going to support him. We've done that since he's been here and we'll keep doing that."
Richard Durrett covers the Texas Rangers for ESPNDallas.com.