‘He’s a great teammate’: Angels express concern, offer support for Josh Hamilton
Josh Hamilton was never given a locker in the Angels clubhouse here for spring training, and it’s unclear when, or if, Hamilton will use his locker at Angel Stadium again, either.
Hamilton, already recovering from recent shoulder surgery, met with Major League Baseball officials in New York on Wednesday; the New York Daily News on Thursday reported Hamilton suffered a relapse of an addiction to cocaine and alcohol.
Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto and manager Mike Scioscia didn’t go into details about Hamilton’s issue — or speculate on his immediate future with the Angels.
"We can deal with a lot of hypotheticals and deal with a lot of rumors that are out there, but it’s not going to serve any purpose," Scioscia said. "We’ll see where Major League Baseball is and get a little more clarity to Josh’s situation."
Said DiPoto: "I’m not going to make any comment on the situation with Josh Hamilton. He’s not here with us . . . Let’s focus on the 62 players in camp."
There was concern in the clubhouse, where many of Hamilton’s teammates expressed hope for Hamilton’s well-being.
"It’s pretty crazy," Mike Trout said. "He’s a great teammate. I know he’s going through a lot of stuff right now. He’s a friend, part of the family. He’s a teammate."
Pitcher C.J. Wilson, who also played with Hamilton in Texas and is a good friend of the slugger, said he didn’t know anything about Hamilton’s meeting in New York until he said he was informed about the report by an Angels official.
Wilson texted Hamilton after he heard the report and last saw him in Anahiem before Hamilton’s Feb. 4 shoulder surgery.
"It’s a big deal," Wilson said of Hamilton’s lifelong battle with addiction. "I had some family members that went through some of this stuff growing up. It’s one of the reasons why I’m straight-edged. I’ve never drank or done drugs in my life. I know exactly how scary this stuff is.
"The pull of addiction is a lifelong struggle for people. It’s not like a haircut. It’s not like you get a haircut and you’re fine. It’s not like that at all. It’s like a tattoo. It’s there forever."
Albert Pujols declined to comment on the situation except to say "Whatever you guys know, I know."
Hamilton is entering the third year of a five-year, $125 million contract and to this point just hasn’t lived up to expectations. He batted just .263 with 10 home runs and 44 RBI in an injury-plagued 2014 season. He played 89 games. He was 0 for 13 in the postseason and was booed by Angels fans. He hasn’t had a postseason hit since 2011 — and that can weigh heavy on any athlete.
Hamilton, obviously frustrated with fans’ reactions to his on-field struggles, said at the time they didn’t realize how much "poison" he put into his body to deal with injuries to be on the field.
"Without getting into any specifics, you’re always worried. We’ll obviously be saying our prayers and hope things work out," Scioscia said. "There’s not enough information to know exactly going on and where Josh is."
Scioscia last talked to Hamilton two or three weeks ago but has reached out to him via text message.
If there’s a clubhouse that appears able to handle this situation with as much ease as possible, Scioscia believes this is a good one.
"I think our organization and clubhouse is as supportive as any team I’ve been around in almost 40 years," Scioscia said. "I think we have a great group of guys. There’s a good camaraderie and support. I think Josh was comfortable in there."
Hamilton, a former No. 1 overall pick in the MLB Draft, was out of baseball for three years from 2003-05. He recovered and returned to baseball, where he enjoyed much success and became an American League MVP in 2010.
His two years with the Angels were wrought with injuries and hitting struggles — this situation is different. Concern for the 33-year-old Hamilton’s health and well-being is the main priority.
"To hear news like that, you look at it and go, ‘Wow,’ " Trout said. "He’s a funny guy in the clubhouse. Everyone likes him."
Said Wilson: "I read his book. I’ve lived in the same locker room with him for six or seven years. Having family members that have gone through it, I have a lot of people tell me . . . Josh is a big inspiration for me because I’ve battled this. The fact he has to battle it on a national stage and lives his life in the open, it’s not like he can hide."