By Tom Verducci
May 09, 2012

BALTIMORE -- On the day after the greatest one-night display of hitting in American League history, Texas Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton, a potential free agent at the end of the season, delivered a message in response to media speculation that leaving Texas would create complications because of his substance abuse history: he can play anywhere.

In comments to me Wednesday during an interview for MLB Tonight on MLB Network, Hamilton said, "I'm under contract for the Rangers for this year and I'm going out just like any other year, giving everything I got, playing hard and ... but I am getting tired of hearing people say, 'It's complicated.'

"When they say it's complicated, you know, I got a guy, I come to the field and play baseball and then my life is my life. My family's my life, my relationship with Christ is my life. None of that's going to change if I'm not playing in Texas. I don't get what's complicated."

This is Hamilton's fifth season with the Rangers. As part of his support group the club provides a counselor to be with him at all times. The Rangers and Hamilton engaged in talks last winter toward a contract extension, but when Hamilton suffered a well-publicized alcohol relapse the two sides agreed to put those talks on hold. Hamilton did say he would "love to" remain a Ranger.

"Our relationship is a deep relationship, the Rangers and mine," he said. "We've done a lot together, you know, they've supported me through certain things which is a great thing. It's great to have an employer that really cares for you as a person, not just for what you can do for them but what they can do for you and your family. That's well received on both ends."

Hamilton continued, "My teammates are phenomenal, obviously, you know, they understand what I've been through. I think that is unique, that they respect the fact that I choose not to partake in any celebrations with drinking or anything like that. You know, I get paid to play the game and no matter where that's at, you know, for me? I'll be fine. Would I love to stay in Texas? Absolutely. But if I don't, I'm going to be OK."

On Tuesday night in Baltimore, Hamilton became only the 16th player in major league history to hit four home runs in a game. He also doubled, giving him an AL record 18 total bases. Dating to his last plate appearance Monday, Hamilton entered Wednesday with extra-base hits in six straight plate appearances: home run, home run, home run, double, home run, home run. The streak is one short of the major league record. He entered Wednesday leading the league in all Triple Crown categories, as well as on-base percentage and slugging percentage.

Hamilton obtained two of the four baseballs he hit for home runs and gave his jersey and helmet to the Hall of Fame. But Hamilton drew the line when the Hall asked for his bat. "No way," he said. "I'm not giving that up until it cracks."

After the record-setting game, Hamilton returned to his hotel room with his counselor, Shayne Kelley, and stayed up until "about three in the morning" answering phone calls and texts and watching highlights from the game "five or six times," he said.

Hamilton said he was unaware of the true historical importance of the four home runs, saying, "I didn't follow baseball that much as a kid. ... Once you talk to the media after it's done and get back away from it, it really kind of starts to sink in, and just what an amazing accomplishment it was."

The Texas outfielder said he was helped by pregame weather in Baltimore that caused the Rangers to take batting practice in the indoor cage rather than on the field. Without the distraction of watching ball flight and carry, Hamilton said he simply concentrated on making pure contact in the cage.

"I felt better on pitch recognition last night than I have during the season so far," he said. "I'm the best player when I get out of my own way and just go out there and fun."

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