SURPRISE, Ariz. — Slugger Josh Hamilton openly acknowledges he’ll be an addict for life. As far as slip-ups are concerned, he prays they will be few and far between along his path to sobriety.
And pray is truly what the Texas star does. Every day. Especially since an alcohol relapse last month.
Hamilton hopes he is done for good discussing the incident and there won’t be any more mistakes down the line to derail his progress.
“You know what, I’ve got a lot of weaknesses, guys,” Hamilton said Friday. “For me it’s communication. I’m on all the time. A lot of these guys are. When you get home it’s very easy to shut down, therefore your relationship with your wife, your relationship with your kids suffers from that because you want to go to shut-down mode. It’s about me being able to open up all the time and realizing my commitment needs to be to them first rather than everybody else. The priorities there need to be flipped.”
Hamilton insists he’s in a much better place emotionally and spiritually just in the past three weeks. He has apologized and shown remorse for his Jan. 30 dinner in Dallas during which he had several drinks and continued drinking later that night. It was the second known relapse with alcohol in the past three years for the recovering drug addict.
“I don’t like continuing to make mistakes, it jumps up and bites me,” he said, noting he needs to take back control of his choices and actions.
The 2010 AL MVP heads into spring training with the two-time reigning AL champion Rangers encouraged since beginning both solo counseling and sessions with his wife.
In a nearly 37-minute news conference outside the clubhouse Friday, Hamilton held a stack of notes and a Bible, recited a half-dozen verses that have influenced him recently and said he will no longer throw a “Band-Aid” over his addiction and communication issues but rather look for a long-term solution.
“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.”
He said he also understands why the Rangers have tabled talks about a contract extension. Hamilton described negotiations as “on hold” and said his unsettled status won’t be addressed during the season.
Hamilton, who is eligible for free agency after this season, said it’s up to the front office to decide whether he deserves a long-term contract.
“I hate that this happened. They knew the risks from the time they took me in ’08,” Hamilton said. “I’ve done a lot of good here, and they’ve been good to me, too. 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 is making a conscious effort not to “shut down” once he leaves work and returns home to wife, Katie, and the couple’s two daughters. That starts with communication and identifying when he might be headed toward that mode, he said.
Teammate Ian Kinsler was with Hamilton on that Jan. 30 night but has said he didn’t see him drink.
“We seem to have off-the-field issues every two months,” Kinsler said Friday. “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. We’ll support Josh as best we can.”
Manager Ron Washington hasn’t noticed anything different from the “happy-go-lucky” Hamilton, who has mingled with fans near the practice fields outside Surprise Stadium signing autographs.
“When you have setbacks, that’s human nature,” Washington said. “With his addiction, relapse is part of recovery. We supported him since the day he got here and we’ll support him until the day he’s no longer a Texas Ranger, if ever.”
The four-time All-Star said he would address his teammates in a meeting at some point and ask them for continued support.
Hamilton reminded everyone that he surrendered his life to God in 2005 and it was “what I needed.”
“If I didn’t have any weaknesses, I wouldn’t need God,” he said. “I need to stay in that place of surrender. Every time I get a little distracted or have some other ideas in mind as far as things taking that place where He needs to be, you know what, my weakness shows and it comes out in full effect. … This is probably the third time now I’ve shared my heart with you guys. All the distractions, I just feel like since I’ve been here every spring training it’s been something other (happening). It’s baseball season. It’s spring training. We’re ALCS champs two years in a row. Let’s focus on that. Let’s focus on our team.”
Hamilton continues to receive regular drug tests from Major League Baseball — something he appreciates because it keeps him accountable.
“This isn’t about baseball,” Hamilton said. “It’s is 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. This is a life thing, folks. This is not a baseball thing.”
Notes: SS Elvis Andrus had a plantar wart removed from his right heel. He might be limited early in camp but it should heal just fine. … Nelson Cruz said he worked hard to build leg strength this winter by changing his exercise regimen with an increased emphasis on “jumping and lifting.” Cruz, who worked out with catcher Mike Napoli, hopes to avoid the hamstring and quadriceps injuries that sidelined him for 29 games last year. “I think he could put up an MVP year if he could stay on the field for 155 games,” Washington said.