Josh Hamilton has spent the past 11 weeks lifting weights, shagging fly balls, taking swings, running bases, rehabilitating his surgically repaired right shoulder.
Though brief, the workout he went through Tuesday had a much different feel to it.
The uniform, the logo on his hat, the nameplate on his locker, the crack of balls being hit, the camaraderie with fellow players, even if they weren’t going to be his actual teammates — all of it meant he was part of a team again and the Texas slugger couldn’t have enjoyed it any more.
"I was on my own, removed from the game," Hamilton said. "It was humbling to still work and still put the time and effort in, not knowing what the outcome was going to be. But I really feel blessed, like it was a miracle to end up here again."
Hamilton’s pothole-filled journey brought him to the Rangers’ spring training facility in the desert looking for a fresh start.
Following a self-reported cocaine and alcohol relapse during the offseason, the prodigiously talented outfielder was back in uniform Tuesday after being traded from the Los Angeles Angels back to Texas, where he went to the World Series twice and was the 2010 AL MVP.
Hamilton had a difficult two seasons in Los Angeles after signing a $125 million, five-year contract, struggling with injuries and performance, culminating with an 0-for-13 playoff performance and his offseason relapse.
Despite an arbitrator determining Major League Baseball could not punish Hamilton, the Angels made it clear they no longer wanted him and paid a hefty price.
As part of the trade, Hamilton agreed to lower his contract by $14 million, a person familiar with the transaction said Tuesday. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the details were not made public.
Texas is paying $6 million to Hamilton over the remainder of the deal, the person said. That means he will wind up costing the Angels $105 million for a pair of unproductive seasons.
Those details were first reported by The Orange County Register.
The Rangers are banking on Hamilton straightening his life out after another in a long line of slipups.
Hamilton said he will be tested five times a week for drug and alcohol use, and expects to remain on track after bringing back the support system that had been removed or pushed away from his life.
"Just continue putting people around me, bringing people back around me and certainty who were there in my life when things were going good and things were working," he said. "That’s the most important thing."
Hamilton had a news conference in Texas on Monday and originally planned to fly to Arizona that night, but decided to stay home to spend time with his four daughters, who treated dad to a little eye makeup.
Though tired from getting up at 3:30 a.m. to catch a flight, not to mention having irritated eyes from the makeup, Hamilton was eager to get back onto a baseball field as part of an organization again.
He arrived at the spring training complex the Rangers share with the Kansas City Royals around 9:30 a.m., wearing a plaid shirt and jeans while carrying a Rangers gear bag as he casually greeted a group of reporters who had been waiting for his arrival.
Hamilton went through some stretching and light jogging on one of the outer fields, then played a little long toss before heading to the batting cages, where he hit off a tee.
The session lasted a little more than an hour and didn’t involve a whole lot of exertion, but it sure felt good.
"It’s been tough the past 11 weeks or so, not knowing what’s going to happen, where I was going to be, and everything that was transpiring was tough," Hamilton said. "It’s good to have something that’s been so consistent in my life back in it again. It’s going to be fun to go out there and do more and more every day."
Hamilton expects to have another light day on Wednesday, maybe adding some swings off a pitching machine before gradually building up his workouts.
He’s expected to be at extended spring training for about 10 days, then start a rehab assignment with Triple-A Round Rock. His goal is to get a call-up back to the big leagues sometime in mid-to-late May and, hopefully, get his career back on track.
It’s been a long, difficult journey, and this stop with the Rangers is likely Hamilton’s last chance, so he hopes to make the most of it.
A moment at the Rangers’ training complex reminded him of how far he has come: Walking off the field, a group of young San Diego Padres players stopped and asked to take photos with him, one telling Hamilton he was his favorite player.
"It was a good feeling," Hamilton said. "The biggest thing it reminded me of was where I’ve been and what a long road it’s been, the ups and downs, good and bad. The whole thing makes me feel appreciative."