Hamilton to play Rays for first time
Texas outfielder to return to where career, troubles started
CLEVELAND -- Josh Hamilton is going fishing.Come Tuesday morning, he is going to be somewhere on the waters of Tampa Bay, fishing pole in hand, trolling for redfish and tarpon. He just can't say where. "I can't reveal that information," he said with a sly grin. He has been looking forward to this for awhile, and that's what he sees as being significant about the Rangers' three-game series with the Tampa Bay Rays that starts Monday at Tropicana Field. Others might see it differently. This is the first time Hamilton will be facing the organization that drafted him, the one that he played and did not play for from 1999-2006 and the one that ill-advisedly left him exposed in the 2006 Rule 5 Draft. Hamilton is finally playing a game in Tropicana Field, although he'll be in the opposing dugout with the Rangers. "I'll get to see a lot of people who were instrumental in getting me back into the game, and I'm grateful to them," Hamilton said Sunday before the Rangers' game with the Indians. "I'll see a lot of players who I played with in the Minor Leagues. It will be good to see them, too. I'm glad I played with them. But now I play for a different team and we're going in there with the attitude that we need to win." That part won't be easy. The Rays may be the most improved team in the Major Leagues, running neck-and-neck with the defending World Series champion Red Sox at the top of the American League East. After many years of losing and suffering, a terrific group of young players is starting to change Tampa Bay's fortunes. Hamilton was supposed to be a part of that -- a huge part -- but he was derailed by his well-chronicled off-field issues with drugs and alcohol and never played with the Rays. "When I look back, I can say that I have regrets," Hamilton said. "Do I hate that it happened? Yeah, I hated that it happened. You just don't know. "I'm grateful for Tampa Bay drafting me and giving me the opportunity, you just don't know the decisions people make in their individual lives and what outcome you'll end up with." Hamilton was the No. 1 overall pick in the 1999 First-Year Player Draft and was moving steadily through their system until he was involved in a automobile accident in Spring Training, 2001. From that point, his career started going downhill, and he missed almost four years because of his personal problems. He didn't finally get his life back together until October 2005, and one of the first people to call him was Andrew Friedman, who had just taken over as the Rays' vice president of baseball operations. Friedman encouraged Hamilton on his road to recovery and then went to bat for him with Major League Baseball. Hamilton credits Friedman for getting him reinstated in the summer of 2006.
|"When I look back, I can say that I have regrets. Do I hate that it happened? Yeah, I hated that it happened. You just don't know. "|
|-- Josh Hamilton|
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.