Josh Hamilton: 'My loyalty is here'
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Texas outfielder Josh Hamilton said Sunday that he owes the team all of his effort and focus for 2012 and that if he becomes a free agent after this season, the first call he's making is to the Rangers' front office.
"If it does go to free agency, the first place I'm coming is here," Hamilton said. "If I owe anything, it's that. My loyalty is here. This is where I've been. This is where my family's been, so obviously I'd love to stay here more than anywhere else. So first of all, they get a chance to do what they need to do to keep me here."
Hamilton clarified his remarks from Friday, when he said he didn't "owe the Rangers." Hamilton felt it was misconstrued.
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"What I owe is 100 percent on the field," Hamilton said. "My employee-employer relationship is to give 100 percent in the clubhouse, to the fans, everything I've done while I've been here. That's what I owe to the Rangers. I've done those things and I'm going to continue to do those things. That's what I mean by it."
His agent and Rangers recently put off talks on a new deal after Hamilton had a relapse with alcohol. The outfielder has been troubled by drugs and alcohol throughout his professional career. Hamilton said he doesn't expect to get into any long-term contract negotiations with the club this spring or during the season, but he didn't close the door to negotiating during the season.
"If it's during the season, I'm not going to know about them because I've asked not to know about them," Hamilton said. "I trust my agent. He's not just my agent, but a close friend and mentor of mine, somebody I go to for advice and I really trust. I leave that up to him. I just say call me when there is something worth talking about."
"I'm just going to leave it up to him. If they approach him and he feels like it is something to go forward with, I'll leave it up to him. It's not going to be something I'm focusing on, concentrating on," he said.
Hamilton will make $13.75 million this season as part of a two-year contract he signed last offseason that finished off his arbitration years. If the club and Hamilton don't reach a long-term agreement before the end of the season, the 30-year-old will become a free agent.
Hamilton was asked about his contract on Friday and said he didn't feel he owed the Rangers.
"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 on Friday. "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 stressed Sunday that he does owe the Rangers all of his effort in making 2012 a successful season. And he vowed to work toward that goal.
He said he's received plenty of support from fans, some of whom told him they were emailing the Rangers to tell the club to re-sign him. But Hamilton also said he knows there are fans who don't think the club should bring him back.
"There's going to be people that don't like what I say if they don't get all the information," Hamilton said. "At the same time, there's going to be a handful of people that don't like it or don't get it, but there's a lot more than that handful that really do get it and support me."
Hamilton said Friday that he is in one-on-one counseling and in counseling with his wife, Katie, as part of his recovery process from a second relapse with alcohol in the past three years. He had the relapse more than three weeks ago at two Dallas-area restaurant/bars and then apologized to fans, teammates and his family the next day. Friday was the first time he answered questions. Hamilton brought his Bible to the news conference and ended up reading five verses during the nearly 37-minute session. He said his faith is instrumental in his recovery.
"Don't get me wrong, this is going to be an ongoing process until the day I die," Hamilton said Friday. "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."
His teammates have continued to show their support for him.
"Josh is completely open with the situation," Ian Kinsler said Friday. The second baseman was with Hamilton for part of that night of his recent relapse, but Hamilton was clear that he didn't drink in front of Kinsler and then returned to a bar after Kinsler left. "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."
Hamilton said Friday that he has a good relationship with the club's new staff assistant Shayne Kelley, whose main responsibility will be to support Hamilton, especially when the team is 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."
Richard Durrett covers the Rangers for ESPNDallas.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.