ARLINGTON, Texas — Discussions about Josh Hamilton‘s long-term future with the Texas Rangers are on hold as the 2010 American League MVP focuses on his daily battle against addiction after his second relapse with alcohol in three years.
Hamilton acknowledged that he had a “moment of weakness” at two Dallas bar/restaurants Monday night because of a “personal reason with a family member.” He apologized to his family, fans and the team during a 12-minute news conference at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on Friday, when he spoke without a script and did not take questions.
“You guys all know how hard I play on the field and I give it everything I absolutely have,” said Hamilton, who expressed appreciation for the Rangers continuing to support him. “When I don’t do that off the field, I leave myself open for a weak moment. I had a weak moment on Monday night in Dallas.”
Hamilton added: “It was just wrong. That’s all it comes down to. I needed to be at a different place. I needed to be responsible. I was not responsible. Those actions of mine have hurt a lot of people I’m very close to.”
Hamilton, the No. 1 overall pick in 1999 whose major league debut was delayed until 2007 because of his drug and alcohol addiction, said he did not use drugs during this relapse. He added that he has passed two drug tests this week and plans to meet with doctors from the league’s substance abuse program in New York soon.
The Rangers were informed of the relapse by Michael Moye, Hamilton’s agent, on Tuesday. Moye and Rangers general manager Jon Daniels agreed then to table discussions on a contract extension for Hamilton, who is entering the last year of a two-year, $24 million deal.
“Obviously it’s something that we’ve got to address and address within this context,” said Daniels, who met with Hamilton on Thursday. “But I just want to be clear on something from our perspective. This is not a baseball story how we view it, how I view it. This is real. This is something that Josh deals with, an addiction, an issue that he has that affects him and the people around him that care about him. He’s a husband, he’s a father, first and foremost, and that’s where our head is, to make sure he has the support he needs and his family needs going forward.”
Hamilton, who hoped to sign a contract extension before spring training, wrapped up his news conference by saying, “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 he was out at dinner and ended up ordering three or four drinks. He said he called Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler and asked him to come join him, but he said he didn’t tell Kinsler that he had been drinking.
“I did not drink in front of him,” Hamilton said. “We finished up at this restaurant that was closing and decided to go across the street to another place that stayed open. We talked baseball, family, life, all these things.”
About 30 minutes later, Kinsler was ready to go home. Hamilton said his teammate dropped him off “where I needed to be,” about a quarter of a mile away.
“He said, ‘You’re not going to go back out or anything, are you?'” Hamilton said of Kinsler. “I said, ‘No,’ and then, ‘I’m good.’ Then I did exactly what I told him I wouldn’t do.”
Any time I drink, there’s a point that comes where a switch flips and you never know when that point’s going to be reached, whether it’s the first three or four, or the 15th. And that’s what’s so dangerous about it.
— Josh Hamilton
Hamilton returned to Sherlock’s Pub & Grill and had several more drinks. He admitted that “things happened that, me personally, I’m not proud of after I drank” but didn’t discuss any incidents specifically.
“Any time I drink, there’s a point that comes where a switch flips and you never know when that point’s going to be reached, whether it’s the first three or four, or the 15th,” Hamilton said. “And that’s what’s so dangerous about it.”
Sherlock’s Baker St. Pub & Grill, the bar where Hamilton went Monday, issued a statement Friday through a public relations agency.
“Mr. Hamilton and Mr. Kinsler were customers at a Sherlock’s Baker Street Pub in Dallas on Monday night,” the statement says. “Customers at our establishment are responsible for their personal actions. In respect to his privacy, any further inquiries should be directed to Mr. Hamilton.”
Hamilton has battled to stay sober since an incident in a Tempe, Ariz., bar a little more than three years ago.
Then, he was photographed drinking with several women and those pictures went viral about seven months later. Hamilton spoke to the media about it at that time and apologized, saying: “I hate that this happened.”
After his 2009 relapse, Hamilton immediately called the Rangers and Major League Baseball, and passed a drug test shortly thereafter and went through league-sanctioned counseling. Hamilton also made sure his support system was fully in place, including having Johnny Narron, his “accountability partner” at the time, with him at spring training and through the rest of the season.
Right now, Hamilton and the Rangers are still in the process of finding a new “accountability partner” after Narron left the club to become the Milwaukee Brewers‘ hitting coach. Hamilton’s father-in-law, Michael Dean Chadwick, was planning on assuming that role for Narron but didn’t want to leave his teenage daughter as she gets closer to finishing high school.
“We’re close to hiring somebody and we were before this happened,” Daniels said.
Hamilton was banned from baseball in 2003 for drug and alcohol use while in the Tampa Bay organization. He was reinstated in 2006 and is drug-tested three times a week.
Hamilton, who has a .308 batting average, 118 home runs and 425 RBI during a spectacular, but injury-plagued career, said this episode is a harsh reminder that he must stay vigilant in staying on the right path.
“I cannot take a break from my recovery,” Hamilton said. “My recovery is Christ. My recovery is an everyday process. When I take that one day off, it leaves me open for a moment of weakness and it’s always been that way.
“For everybody that I’ve hurt, for fans, kids, people that have addictions that look up to me, I apologize to you. When you’re doing this, you don’t mean to hurt anybody, but you’re only thinking it hurts yourself, but I know it hurt a lot of people.”
After his public apology earlier in the day, Hamilton appeared as scheduled Friday night at a Christian men’s rally in Katy, Texas, near Houston. He again didn’t take any questions, and spoke only to the congregation.
“I could hide in shame and not show up tonight and be withdrawn, but I didn’t want to do that,” Hamilton told the group while reiterating his Christian faith. “I’m doing what I had to do today. I am fessing up. I am going to be a man about it, I am fessing up. People are going to call me a hypocrite, but I am a sinful man.”
Hamilton’s wife Katie posted a couple of messages on her Twitter account earlier in the day.
“Truly appreciate all the encouraging & supportive tweets we’ve been getting,” one tweet said. “God is Faithful and forgives — so thankful that you all are.”
Another tweet read: “Showing us such love and encouragement during this time.”
Hamilton was especially regretful about the impact his actions could have on his wife, who stuck by his side when he hit rock bottom and was out of baseball, and four daughters.
“I put my wife through a lot in our marriage and she’s a very strong woman,” Hamilton said. “It’s about time I became the strong one in the relationship, take responsibility and take the lead in making choices, making decisions and stepping up and being the man I’m supposed to be and not continue to hurt her, put my kids in situations where they might hear things. It’s not a good situation for anybody.”
Hamilton, a key figure in the Rangers’ two consecutive trips to the World Series, has worked to avoid even the smell of alcohol, something his teammates have respected. They have even catered their postseason celebrations for him (and former teammate C.J. Wilson, who also did not want to be around alcohol) by having ginger ale and water showers before breaking out the champagne after winning a playoff series.
His battle with addiction delayed Hamilton’s track to the big leagues despite being the No. 1 overall draft pick in 1999 by the Tampa Bay Rays. He did not make his major league debut until 2007 with the Cincinnati Reds, who traded Hamilton to the Rangers before the 2008 season.
Hamilton’s last relapse was in January 2009. When discussing the incident in August 2009, Hamilton said it was the first drink he’d had since Oct. 6, 2005, the day he vowed to stay sober.
“I just ask everybody who’s watching and listening to pray for me and pray for my family as we go through this difficult time,” Hamilton said. “Pray for me and pray for my family, because it never gets easy. It never gets easy.”
Tim MacMahon is a reporter and columnist for ESPNDallas.com. Richard Durrett of ESPNDallas.com and the Associated Press contributed to this report.
Rangers’ Hamilton on relapse: ‘It was wrong’
ESPN.com – MLB
Latest MLB news from ESPN.com