John Hamilton came to your Anaheim Angels of Anaheim with a big stick and a lot of baggage. The first overall pick in the 1999 Major League Baseball draft spent most of his first eight seasons in the minors or suspended due to drug and alcohol addiction. He's gone on to become a lifetime .295 hitter, five-time All-Star outfielder and 2010 American League MVP in the Bigs. By his side on and off the road has been an "accountability partner"–think a life chaperon. But the Angels and Hamilton have announced that's about to change.
The franchise released a statement that says Hamilton has, in his own words, "downsized the role" of his accountability partner, having him only accompany the slugger on road games and not dress for games in a uniform like an additional coach. Among the partner's duties is handling the 32-year-old's meal money.
"It's time to cut the cord a little bit," Hamilton says in the Halos' release. "I don't really use it for home games. I go to the park, I do what I need to do, I know what I need to do, and I have my family. That was one of the main reasons."
Filling the role for most road games during the 2014 season will be Boyd Bassham, who attends Hamilton's church in the Dallas area. For games in Texas, Chad Harrington, who has known Hamilton for five years and, according to the player, "loves me a lot," will step in. Neither Bassham nor Harrington are all that interested in baseball, which Hamilton considers a good thing, according to the Angels statement, which quotes him saying of Bassham's influence that it's "more of a spiritual thing."
They replace Shayne Kelley, who was with Hamilton during the 2012 and 2013 seasons in Texas and Anaheim but by mutual agreement left to pursue another job in sports. From the time Hamilton returned to the game in 2007 through February 2012, Johnny Narron was by his side. Narron left to become the Milwaukee Brewers' hitting coach.
Kelley and Narron were known as "accountability coaches," because they also helped Hamilton with the game. Narron detailed his previous role as Hamilton's chaperon, adviser, confidant and personal hitting coach to the Los Angeles Times' Mike DiGiovanna in December 2012, explaining they had adjacent hotel rooms on the road, and Narron and his wife socialized with Josh and Katie Hamilton at home.
"There were things we did to help him stick to his sobriety," Narron reportedly said. "The most important thing was to support him in his faith and his family. Embrace him, encourage him, stay positive with him. Those things have worked for Josh."
But the Angels and Hamilton now agree that he has come far enough in his recovery that he can rely on his wife and their four daughters while he is home in SoCal (and their current temporary home in Arizona for spring training).
"You don't say you don't need it," Hamilton explains, "but I have other people in my life to pick it up–whether it be Katie or just spiritual mentors."
Matt Coker has been engaging, enraging and entertaining readers of newspapers, magazines and websites for decades. He spent the first 13 years of his career in journalism at daily newspapers before “graduating” to OC Weekly in 1995 as the paper’s first calendar editor. He went on to be managing editor, executive editor and is now senior staff writer.