July 15, 2008
Back in August of 2007, I interviewed Josh Hamilton for a story which never ran. It could have been a narrative, or a Q&A, or a fable, or a whatever, but it was a nothing. It never saw the light of day. There just never seemed to be a good time for it. Until now.
With his second-place finish at the All-Star Game's Home Run Derby (first place would have been BETTER), what follows deserves to be let out and shared with the world. It's not your typical Answer Man; there are no flying cars or no farts. Just a guy talking about making a career while battling his addictions. It will do.
Q: During the Rule 5 Draft in 2006, you were on the Cubs for about an 45 seconds. What did you know and when did you know it about your status?
Josh Hamilton: I knew I could possibly be taken, but I didn't know who by. I called a scout friend of mine and he told me — actually, he called me — and told me that I got taken by the Cubs. Of course, I called everybody. "Hey, everyone, I'm on the Cubs!" He called me back and went, "Nope. Change in plans. You're going to the Reds." So I had to call everybody right back and tell 'em I was going to the Reds.
Q: Were you just happy that someone was interested in you?
JH: Absolutely. At the same time, going through what I went through, it was just ... amazing that someone was willing to give me a second chance; someone still had some faith in me — as a player and as a person. It definitely helped up my confidence and my spirits.
Q: Do you look at second chances differently now than you used to? Before, were you a guy who would go, "Ah, you had your chance and you blew it"?
JH: I've always been — I guess ... not flexible, but ...
JH: Yeah, forgiving. When it comes to people making mistakes, we all do. I was glad that there are other people out there like that. I felt very fortunate and blessed to be able to go through it and come back through it.
Q: Did you feel guilty at all that the Devil Rays were not really getting anything for you in the end?
JH: [Considerate pause]. I'm short on my words this morning [laughs, reaches for tin of chewing tobacco in locker]. Did I feel guilty? I can't think of the word. Help me out.
JH: Yeah, there you go. Yeah. I would say I don't feel guilty, but I do feel regretful that I didn't fulfill what I was drafted to do. But at the same time, I can't live thinking about that. I thanked them, when I left them, for everything they did for me — they kept everything under wraps as much as possible — they helped me through what I went through.
Q: Tobacco, is that your vice?
JH: That's it. That's it. They tell you not to quit that while you're trying to quit other things. But it's the same; just a matter of choices. If you want to do it, you're going to do it. If you don't, you don't. I was actually thinking about quitting [tobacco] this off-season.
Q: How long have you dipped?
JH: Right about the same time I started everything else. Since I was 21, 22 years old.
Q: That might be the hardest one of all.
JH: Nah, you know... I don't know. I've done it before. I'll probably do it this off-season. It's just a matter of wanting to do it. I don't know if I'm wanting to do it yet.
Q: Is it dangerous to not leave yourself something?
JH: No, I'm past that point. I don't let it bother me any more. Every once in a while, I'll have a dream and think about being in certain situations back when I was using [illegal drugs]. If I can get rid of all my problems polluting my body, the better off I'll be.
Q: Were people paying closer attention to you when you were on the disabled list [in '07], when you had idle time?
JH: I have people looking out for me all the time. Being on the disabled list really didn't change that. It wasn't any different. I was still going to the park, working out. My family was with me in Cincinnati, Katie and the kids.
Q: Are any of the tattoos you have still relevant to your life?
JH: Some of them do. There's a cross right here [on a leg]. If I had to do it again, would I get any? No. But it's a part of my life that I went through at a time. Can't do anything about it now.Getty Images photo