ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – This time, the Texas Rangers' celebration started with Josh Hamilton.
Left out of the party when the club clinched the American League West title in late September, Hamilton on Tuesday night dashed into the visitors’ clubhouse and into a torrent of ginger ale after the Rangers beat the Tampa Bay Rays in the AL division series.
“The guys really doused me good,” he said later, having slipped out of the clubhouse when the ginger ale ran dry. “They gave me a lot of hugs and congratulations.”
He smiled and raised a green plastic bottle of soda. He’d pushed a pair of ski goggles to the top of his forehead.
“You know,” he said, “this stuff burns your eyes just like that other stuff does.”
Hamilton’s life and baseball career were nearly ruined by years of drug and alcohol abuse. Still fighting that fight, Hamilton led the Rangers to their first AL West title in 11 years, won the AL batting title and is a leading MVP candidate.
Yet when they laughed and sprayed each other with champagne after clinching the division in Oakland, Hamilton stayed dry and sober in the trainer’s room. His teammates brought him along this time, laying in wait, armed with Canada Dry bottles, and together they carried on for 10 minutes after their 5-1 victory at Tropicana Field.
“It meant a lot,” he said. “It just says a lot about my teammates, them understanding the sensitivity of my situation.”
Not far away, in the hallway outside the clubhouse, Hamilton’s wife, Katie, and various friends, including his pastor from North Carolina, beamed.
“I think that’s precious,” Katie said. “It’s so wonderful that they’re sensitive to him.”