ARLINGTON, Texas. — Texas Rangers outfielder and recovering drug addict Josh Hamilton said Friday that he had a relapse that started with “three or four” drinks at a Dallas-area bar this week, apologizing for a “weak moment” and insisting he will try to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
The 30-year-old Hamilton said his actions “are mine that hurt a lot of people very close to me.”
Hamilton was suspended for more than three years for drug and alcohol use while in the Tampa Bay organization. The former No. 1 overall draft pick missed the entire 2004 and 2005 seasons, but has become one of the best players in baseball on a team that has won the last two American League pennants. He was the AL MVP in 2010.
But Hamilton this week had his second known alcohol-related relapse in three years. Both came during the offseason.
In January 2009, he drank to excess in a bar in Tempe, Ariz. Before that, Hamilton said he had been sober since Oct. 6, 2005.
Without being specific, Hamilton said his weak moment Monday night came for “personal reasons” with a family member. He said he walked to a restaurant to have dinner and ended up ordering “three or four drinks.”
Hamilton said he has not taken any drugs, and had no thoughts of doing so. He said he has been tested for drugs twice this week, part of his normal routine. He said he expects to meet soon with Major League Baseball doctors and counselors in New York for an evaluation in his continued recovery.
Hamilton spoke for about 12 minutes without using any prepared notes or taking any questions. Though there were no tears, he struggled with his emotions at times. He closed his eyes at one point, forced a smile at another time.
“My life in general is based on making the right choices, everything as far as my recovery, as far as my baseball goes, it’s all based around my relationship with the Lord,” Hamilton said. “And I look at it like that, you all know how hard I play on the field and I give it everything I absolutely have. When I don’t do that off the field, I leave myself open for a weak moment.”
After having a few drinks with dinner, Hamilton called Ian Kinsler to come hang out with him.
Hamilton said Kinsler didn’t know he had been drinking, and that he never had a drink in front of his teammate, even when they left before the restaurant closed and went to another place nearby for 25-30 minutes. Then Kinsler drove him back to where he was staying not far away.
Though Hamilton told Kinsler he was not going anywhere else, Hamilton said he later returned to the place they had left had had more drinks.
“Things happened that me, personally, I’m not proud of after I drank, and they are personal and are being handled as that,” he said. “Knowing this was going to get out in social media, Twitter, people get excited. There was no pictures taken of me having a beer with somebody or anything like that, but I did take pictures with people.”
Months after the 2009 incident, a dozen or so pictures were posted online showing Hamilton taking shots off the bar, and dancing and hugging several young women. He publicly apologized then.
In Twitter posts Friday, Hamilton’s wife, Katie, wrote: “Truly appreciate all the encouraging & supportive tweets we’ve been getting. God is Faithful and forgives- so thankful that you all are … Showing us such love and encouragement during this time.”
When the Rangers acquired him from the Cincinnati Reds in December 2007, they were aware of Hamilton’s off-the-field problems. He is tested for drug use three times a week and has had an accountability partner to support him in his recovery — though that job is now vacant.
Assistant hitting coach Johnny Narron’s primary role was to support the former No. 1 overall draft pick, but Narron left the Rangers in November for Milwaukee.
The Rangers announced last month that Hamilton’s father-in-law had been hired as a staff special assistant to be the accountability partner, but Michael Dean Chadwick has since decided against accepting that position because of “family considerations.”
General manager Jon Daniels said the team was close to hiring someone for the job, a process that was already in the final stages before the latest incident. He said an announcement could come next week.
Daniels said such a person likely wouldn’t have been with Hamilton during the offseason when he was home with his family, as was the case this week.
Hamilton can become a free agent after this season and had said he didn’t want to negotiate an extension after he reports to spring training in two weeks.
“It would be nice if it was talking about a contract but we’ll put that on the back burner for a while,” Hamilton said.
Daniels concurred that he had agreed with Hamilton’s agent, Mike Moye, that contract talks would be put on hold. Daniels said there was no timetable for resuming them.
While Daniels said Hamilton’s relapse created a number of emotions, including disappointment, he said the overriding concern was for Hamilton and his family. Hamilton and his wife have four daughters, the youngest born last summer.
Hamilton hit .298 with 25 homers and 94 RBIs last season when the Rangers won their second consecutive AL pennant. He missed 36 games early in the season because of a broken bone in his arm suffered on a play at the plate against the Tigers. The season also was marred by the death of a firefighter who fell from the stands while trying to catch a ball for his son that was thrown by Hamilton.
When the playoffs began, the boy, 6-year-old Cooper Stone, threw out the ceremonial first pitch to Hamilton, his favorite player. The scene brought 50,000 fans to their feet, many with tears in their eyes, and Hamilton was deeply touched.
“Just to see the smile on his face and him enjoying himself,” Hamilton said after the game, “it was pretty special to see.”
Hamilton said the Rangers have shown nothing but support to him and told him this week they would continue to support him. He said he knows he’s let a lot of people down beside himself and his family.
“For everybody who I have hurt, for everybody — fans, kids, people who have addictions and look up to me — apologize to you,” he said. “When you’re doing this, you don’t mean to hurt anybody. You only think you’re hurting yourself, but as I know, you’re hurting a lot of people.”