|Josh Hamilton's hitting and comeback awe-inspiring for Rangers|
|Written by Admin|
|Wednesday, 19 March 2008 10:14|
Balls ricocheting off the clubhouse building beyond the left-center field fence, scorching liners into the outfield gaps. The scene is repeated again and again, not only in a single BP session.
``He's something that I've never seen before as far as tools-wise and what he's able to do,'' teammate Ian Kinsler said.
And Hamilton, acquired from the Cincinnati Reds in an offseason trade, has been more than a practice-field phenom.
The center fielder had hits in 12 of his 14 spring training games and was hitting .556 (20-of-36) before Wednesday, the Rangers' only scheduled day off this spring. He had nine extra-base hits (five doubles, two triples, two home runs) and a major league-best 13 RBIs.
``Dunks, bullets, pounders,'' manager Ron Washington said. ``Just wait until he breaks out his bunt.''
There was a stretch last week when Hamilton reached base in 13 straight at-bats, with 10 hits and three walks.
Hamilton is coming off an impressive rookie season, hitting .292 with 19 homers and 47 RBIs in 298 at-bats over 90 games. But the Reds traded the former No. 1 overall pick in December because of a supposed abundance of outfielders.
``It caught me off guard,'' Hamilton said. ``I'll always be thankful that I got the experience in Cincinnati, but hopefully I'll be able to experience some things like that with the Texas fans. ... I just think it was where I was supposed to be the first year, and exactly where I need to be my second year.''
Hamilton quickly became a fan favorite in Cincinnati with his play, for what he overcame to get there and the openness in which he addressed his past.
His major league debut came nearly eight years after Tampa Bay drafted him. He also was out of baseball 3 1/2 years because of his addictions to cocaine and alcohol, neither of which he had ever tried until he was hurt and on the disabled list in the minors.
After Texas' first full squad workout this spring, Hamilton answered media questions for about 40 minutes, openly discussing his past and his Christian faith that has helped him stay sober for more than two years. Several of his new teammates showed their support by attending and listening.
``People sometimes make the wrong choice, and he was able to work out of it and get back to where he belongs, and what he was meant to do, and I just completely respect that,'' Kinsler said.
Texas gave up top pitching prospect Edinson Volquez to acquire Hamilton, expected to be their everyday center fielder and hit in the middle of the lineup.
``When a team has expectations of you like that, it lets you know that you're wanted and you're needed,'' Hamilton said. ``And that's the way I feel here.''
Hamilton was left off Tampa Bay's 40-man roster and the Reds got him through a Rule 5 draft trade in December 2006. Before starting last season in Cincinnati, he had played only 15 games at the lowest rung of the minor leagues since 2002.
Hamilton averaged only 53 games in his five minor league seasons, mostly in Class A, before being out of the game for 3 1/2 years.
So it remains to be seen what he can do over a full season. Project Hamilton's numbers with the Reds last season over 162 games, and it would be 34 homers and 85 RBIs in 536 at-bats.
``The key is staying healthy. I've never had a year where I played 150-155 games, and I've never had that 550-600 at-bats,'' he said. ``I've always wondered what kind of numbers can I put up if I get that many at-bats.''
Hamilton and the Rangers hope to find out this season.