Hamilton 'home' as he joins Rangers HOF

August 18th, 2019

ARLINGTON -- returned to Globe Life Park on Saturday night to be inducted into the Rangers Hall of Fame, and it was almost like he had never left.

The reception was overwhelmingly positive as Hamilton and former Arlington Mayor Richard Greene took their rightful place among the best to ever play for or be associated with the Rangers. When it was over, Hamilton admitted he probably shouldn’t have left the first time and Texas was always the place he truly belonged.

He was a five-time All-Star for the Rangers and led them to the World Series in 2010 and ’11. But he left after the 2012 season and signed a five-year contract with the Angels.

“It’s a blessing that I went to the Angels and took care of my kids,” Hamilton said. “Yeah, I got paid, but it’s not all about that. I really should have prayed more and harder before I made any kind of decision.”

Hamilton ended up coming back to Texas. He played two mediocre seasons with the Angels and dealt with injuries and personal issues before he was traded back to the Rangers. The Rangers reacquired him on April 27, 2015, and in his first at-bat back in Arlington, he ripped a double off of Red Sox pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez.

“My first game back against Boston, I didn’t know what to expect, and it was nothing but cheers, fired up,” Hamilton said. “There was some lefty throwing 95, and I ripped one down the line, double, just being on second and I remembered how awesome it was to play here -- the stadium, the atmosphere. It was pretty special.”

There was always a special relationship between Hamilton and Rangers fans, almost from the time he was acquired from the Reds just before Christmas in 2007. Fans were in awe of his ability, loved the way he played the game and had great respect for how he overcame the addiction to drugs and alcohol that almost ruined him early in his career.

“The Hall is an honor, the Hall of Fame here in Texas,” Hamilton said. “But the fans ... I don’t have a job if the fans aren’t here. I don’t get paid. In all actuality, you play for fans. Every night, somebody who was here, I wanted to show them something exciting. Didn’t always happen, but I tried to make it happen the best I could. It was a lot of fun.”

Those were the memories that were brought back when Hamilton was introduced after Greene on Saturday night.

“If you look at the overall skill set, the best I have ever seen,” outfielder David Murphy in helping present Hamilton.

“To say he was the total package, it’s a massive understatement,” fellow Rangers Hall of Famer Michael Young said. “If you look at our team before Josh got here, we already had some pieces. Then all of sudden Josh showed up, and that changed everything. The things Josh did physically on a baseball field, I’ve never seen anything like it in my life.”

Hamilton began his acceptance speech by thanking God, the Rangers organization for taking a chance on him, his teammates and both the training and medical staff.

“I was in the training room a lot,” Hamilton said. “It was like a second home to me.”

He thanked everybody from the clubhouse assistants, to the coaches and former manager Ron Washington, ownership and the public relations staff. He also spent time talking about his religious faith and how it helped deliver him from the near-lethal grip of addiction.

“I just want you to know my life wouldn’t have ended up like I did or close to it if I didn’t have help from Jesus Christ,” Hamilton said. “You all know my story. You can’t look at the end and tell me that I did that all on my own or with just willpower.”

When he was finished, he was accorded one more standing ovation at Globe Life Park, fitting since Hamilton never really did say goodbye or formally announce his retirement. He played in 50 games in 2015 and tried to come back both in 2016 and 2017. But knee injuries kept him from getting on the field, and the Rangers finally had to let him go.

“It was kind of like I disappeared, right?” Hamilton said. “Which for me is fine … but the fans, it was like, OK, he’s back and now he is gone. I had no clue I was going to come back here. I made the decision I wanted to make for my family at the time. Turns out it didn’t work out, but I was able to come home. This is home, and they accepted me back.

“You can look back and think about a lot of things -- if I made a different decision here or there, or done things differently. Texas has always felt like home. And so, I got back here as quickly as I could.”