Hamilton discusses relapse last winter
Rangers slugger admits to excessive alcohol use in January
ANAHEIM -- Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton, a recovering substance abuser whose comeback from personal problems was one of the biggest stories in baseball in 2008, admitted Saturday that he had a night of excessive alcohol drinking at a Phoenix-area bar back in January.Photos of the night were published on a Web site this weekend, but members of the Rangers organization have been aware of it since January. Hamilton said he was "embarrassed" by the incident and extremely sorry for the pain it caused his family and the concerns it caused the organization. "Obviously I'm embarrassed about it personally," Hamilton said before Saturday's game with the Angels. "For the Rangers, I'm embarrassed about it and for my wife [Katie] and my kids. Obviously it was one those things that reinforce that I can't have alcohol." The incident occurred while Hamilton was working out at the Athlete Performance Institute Tempe. Hamilton went to Arizona a month early to prepare for the season after a hectic winter. He said concentrating on his preparations for the season caused him to lose focus on what's important. "I feel like I've been humbled," Hamilton said. "It is what it is. I got away from the one thing that kept me on the straight and narrow and that was my relationship with the Lord. That should always come first. Hopefully some good will come out of this. "Maybe this will show people that if they are recovering and make a mistake, it's not the end of the world. You can get back on the right track. Hopefully I can use God's glory to show that I do have struggles. This just lets me know that I need Christ more than ever." Hamilton said he went out to dinner at a restaurant/bar and decided to have a drink. He said one thing led to another and he ended up excessively intoxicated. He said he had trouble remembering what happened that night. Hamilton does not believe he used illegal drugs, although his memory of the events are quite sketchy and he was not tested for any illegal substances at the time. Hamilton is tested three times a week even during the offseason and he said he was tested two days after his night of drinking. "I just wasn't mentally fit or spiritually fit," Hamilton said. "It just crossed my mind that night, 'Can I have a drink?' Obviously I can't and this reinforces that. Since that night, I have not had another thought like that. I know it's something I shouldn't do because it leads to other things." Hamilton said he woke up the next morning and realized what he had done was wrong. He immediately called his wife and admitted what he had done. That was the hardest part. "It hurts me a lot to do something in the eyes of the Lord that is wrong and I've done something wrong," Hamilton said. "But the biggest thing is Katie. That stirs up a lot of feelings. It's tough. Obviously Katie and I have a strong relationship and I hate that I put her through this." He also called Rangers general manager Jon Daniels and Major League Baseball immediately afterward. Ultimately, he met with doctors and counselors as well as the Rangers to address the situation. Because he did not test positive for banned substances, no punitive measures were taken either by the club or Major League Baseball. "My first reaction in January was one of concern," Daniels said. "Since then I've talked to a lot of people and they say it was significant that he came forward immediately and was honest about it. It's not a good situation but he handled it as best he could. All we can do is support him. "Ultimately he's a grown man who makes his own decisions. We're going to do everything we can to support him but we're not going to babysit him. We can just help him make the best decisions he can." Hamilton, while in the Tampa Bay Rays organization, missed 3 1/2 years because of his problems with cocaine, alcohol and other illegal substances. He was reinstated on June 2, 2006, under strict rules of conduct that included being drug tested three times a week. He was not prohibited from using alcohol, although that was a severe part of his past problems. "It's important to remember that first and foremost, Josh is a husband and a father," Daniels said. "I know in talking to Josh, that's what's most painful to him. His wife has been extremely supportive in getting him through this in January. Now it's something as a family they have to deal with." The Rangers acquired Hamilton from the Reds on Dec. 21, 2007, for pitchers Edinson Volquez and Danny Ray Herrera, obviously knowing his past. Johnny Narron, a family friend from Hamilton's childhood in North Carolina, was hired as a special instructor and mentor. He served in that role with the Reds before the trade. Narron, brother of former Rangers manager Jerry Narron, was with Hamilton in Arizona but did not go out with him that night. "When you get time under your belt, you might feel you have some freedom," Hamilton said. "Obviously I don't have enough time under my belt. It's not Johnny's fault. We have a good relationship and I violated that trust." Hamilton went into Saturday's game hitting .235 with eight home runs and 33 RBIs in 62 games and 226 at-bats. He has been on the disabled list twice, once for a bruised ribcage muscle and once for a torn muscle in his abdomen that required surgery. Both injuries occurred while running into a wall in the outfield. He said his problems this season both in his performance and in his injuries have nothing to do with the incident in January. "If you consider running into walls and making plays being not up to par, it hasn't affected me," Hamilton said. "I had a good spring. Since it happened, I haven't thought much about it. I don't see any connection with that happening and the way I've played."
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.