With faith, Hamilton overcomes addictions, gets another chance Print
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Wednesday, 20 February 2008 14:47
MLB Headline News

 SURPRISE, Ariz. (AP) -Among the more than two dozen tattoos on Josh Hamilton's body are demons without eyes, the significance of which the new Texas Rangers center fielder never understood until he overcame his cocaine and alcohol addictions.
``I didn't realize that no eyes meant no soul. I didn't know all this at the time,'' Hamilton said Wednesday after the Rangers' first full-squad spring workout. ``This is what I was feeling then.''
Those images are now a reminder of the off-the-field problems that kept the former No. 1 overall pick out of baseball for 3 1/2 seasons.
Hamilton's last tattoo is an image of Jesus Christ on the back of his leg, which he views as a symbol of victory over his addictions.
``It's like he's standing behind me, plugged into me,'' Hamilton said. ``I'm not one of those guys who talks about God just because it sounds good. It's because he changed my life.''
His promising baseball career nearly derailed by his addictions and eight stints in drug rehab, Hamilton had a breakthrough and much-delayed rookie season in Cincinnati last year, eight years after he was drafted.
Now, he is expected to start for the Rangers after being traded to Texas during the winter.
Wearing a Rangers shirt, Hamilton openly discussed his past and his faith, answering media questions for about 40 minutes. Michael Young and Hank Blalock were among several teammates there listening, as were general manager Jon Daniels and manager Ron Washington.
``You know, sometimes you go through things and come out a lot stronger on the other side,'' fellow outfielder Marlon Byrd said.
``Spreading the word about what I went through helps me more than you know,'' Hamilton said. ``If I get an urge or a thought in my head to have a couple of drinks, I think about what I told you and I think about being a hypocrite.''
Hamilton acknowledged there were times he thought about giving up. But then he turned to God and was ``able to start working my way back to baseball and being a responsible man, father and husband.''
Hamilton was drafted by Tampa Bay in 1999, the first high school player picked No. 1 overall since Alex Rodriguez in 1993. His parents accompanied their teenage son through the start of his professional career, and were with him until they had to return home in February 2001 because of injuries sustained in a car accident.
Without parental guidance for the first time, Hamilton also had lingering back problems likely sustained in the same wreck and eventually went on the disabled list. He took his first drink and snorted cocaine for the first time - on the same night.
Things spiraled out of control, with several suspensions, and he started to pawn stuff to get drugs. He said he didn't worry about anybody else or what he needed to do, and eventually found himself out of baseball.
``I went down this road where I never seemed to laugh or cry,'' he said.
Separated from his wife and weighing a paltry 180 pounds - nearly 60 pounds lighter than his current playing weight - Hamilton showed up at his grandmother's door in October 2005. She told him the same thing so many other people had, but she got through to him.
``I heard it so many times, but for whatever reason that was the time it happened and I asked myself what am I doing,'' he said. ``I looked at all the good things I could be doing and that was the biggest thing that got me started on the right path.''
His suspension was lifted by baseball in June 2006 after he was sober for eight months. He then played 15 games at the lowest rung in the minor leagues. Left off Tampa Bay's 40-man roster, Cincinnati got him through a Rule 5 draft trade that winter.
Hamilton hit .292 with 19 home runs and 47 RBIs in 298 at-bats for Cincinnati, which traded him because of an abundance of outfielders. While surprised by the trade, Hamilton likes his new teammates in Texas.
``Things are going well. I was out at the batting cage the other day and I felt like I was in high school,'' he said.
And Hamilton has put on some shows for his new teammates with towering home runs in batting practice that ricochet off the clubhouse facility beyond the left-center field wall.
``He's definitely a special person because of the top bat speed he has. There is a lot of upside,'' hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo said. ``He is an outstanding young man and we're going to support him and do whatever we can to help this team, and he'll be a big part of it. You always want to help somebody and he's definitely trying to help himself.''
 

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