ARLINGTON, Texas -- Former Texas Rangers slugger Josh Hamilton was greeted with plenty of boos by a sellout crowd at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington in the outfielder's first trip to Texas since signing with the Los Angeles Angels during the offseason.
After the Rangers' 3-2 win, Hamilton made things worse for himself with Rangers fans in his postgame news conference. Hamilton, clearly upset by the fan response, said it was the loudest he's ever heard the park.
Hamilton said before Friday's game that he wouldn't retract his comment about Dallas being a football town.
"I can't say that I didn't expect it," Hamilton said. "I will never take back what I said until they show up every night for 30 years. But I'm glad I can help create spirit and fire in this town. Honestly, man, that was louder than any playoff game I've ever been to so I'm excited for them about that. Hopefully the fans can carry that on through the season."
Hamilton was introduced with the rest of the Angels' starters about 25 minutes prior to the first pitch and was booed, although there were small pockets of fans who stood and clapped. But that was light compared to the decibel level of the boos once everyone was in their seats for the start of the second inning. Hamilton was introduced, and a chorus of boos drowned out anyone attempting to cheer. Once Rangers starter Derek Holland threw a strike, the ballpark erupted in cheers. And those cheers only got louder when Hamilton struck out on four pitches, waving at a 1-2 slider for his seventh strikeout of the season.
Before the game, Hamilton indicated he expected more negative than positive reactions.
"I'm not setting out to prove anyone wrong," Hamilton said. "I'm just setting out to play the game like I always have, hard and give it what I have. If they boo, like I've said, they booed when I was here at times, so I don't expect anything less, especially playing for the Angels."
Hamilton added that "you can't let stuff like that hurt your feelings" and that he's heard worse things than boos from fans as he's stood in the outfield at various stops around the league.
"My family will be at the game," Hamilton said a few hours before first pitch. "People obviously know my family. I hope they respect the fact that they're there."
Fans clearly enjoyed Hamilton's 0-for-4 day, which included Holland striking him out twice. Hamilton is 1-for-16 in the Angels' first four games.
"I'd lie to you if I said it didn't bother me a little bit," Hamilton said. "But it didn't like overwhelm me, oh my goodness, what am I going to do, get me out of the lineup, I can't stand it. It wasn't that detrimental. It's what I expected."
Hamilton compared his treatment to that at other ballparks, including Yankee Stadium. He made a good point after Rangers fans supported his story and his personal triumph.
"I got worn out as good today as I had anywhere else," Hamilton said. "The booing was a little louder. The chants, I've been called a crackhead before at Yankee Stadium and places like that, just like it was today. It probably hurt a little more to know that people would turn that quickly. To think that they kind of supported you as far as personal, your story, things like that. Just tells you a lot."
Friday was not the first time Hamilton was booed in Arlington. His final game as a Ranger was October's American League wild-card loss to the Baltimore Orioles. Hamilton was 0-for-4 and saw a total of eight pitches. He struck out with runners in scoring position late in the game in his final at-bat in a Rangers uniform and heard boos from the Texas crowd.
That came two days after he dropped a routine fly ball in shallow center field in Oakland in a tie game, allowing the A's to take a lead they did not relinquish in pulling off a stunning comeback from five games behind with nine to play to win the division.
Hamilton then angered fans with comments this offseason saying Dallas-Fort Worth wasn't a "true baseball town."
Some fans Friday didn't wait long before booing. Chris and Jeff Navarre were at the park for batting practice, and said they booed him as he jogged on the field.
"The booing is not a reflection of the effort he gave for 4 or 4½ years; it was how he gave up on the team," said Chris Navarre, 29, from Trophy Club. "The fly ball in Oakland was the prime example. His mentality was gone at that point. I don't know if it was the weight of the contract or what.
"The franchise gave him a lot, and it seemed like at the end he was so checked out, it didn't really matter."
Hamilton said a few weeks ago at spring training that he would sign autographs for fans before his first game, and he kept his word following his batting practice session. Fans clamored with jerseys, hats, photos and baseball cards, and Hamilton signed for at least 20 minutes. Some of those fans were there to thank him, including Sharon Allbright from Richardson. She held up a sign that read: "Thanks for what you did in Texas."
"I think a lot of people took the comments out of context," Allbright said about Hamilton's "baseball town" remarks, which were part of a February interview with a local television station. "A lot of people got offended. I didn't take it personally. The Cowboys are No. 1 here. Everyone knows that.
"I just wanted to show my support for all he did and let him know I appreciate it."
Hamilton was a five-time All-Star who had 142 homers and 506 RBIs during his five-year Rangers career. He hit .305 in that span with a .912 OPS. Hamilton was the AL MVP in 2010, hitting .359 with 32 homers and 100 RBIs despite missing nearly all of September with cracked ribs. He was a critical component of the club's back-to-back AL championship runs in 2010 and 2011.
"I'm going to go out and I'm going to play. I play for the Angels now," Hamilton said before the game. "I had a great run in Texas. It was a great five years. I'll never, ever forget it. The fans were great. ... It was fun to be a part of. I'm glad I could be a part of it and help the fan base grow."