11:48 PM EDT, May 9, 2013
HOUSTON — Uh-oh, we've got another smiler.
This catches on and we won't have any athletes around town who appear as if they give a rip.
Dwight Howard, meet Josh Hamilton.
"I've had people screaming at me when I'm at the plate, 'Wipe that smile off your face,''' said the Angels bust. "If I'm not smiling, you don't want me out there. I want to play the game how I've grown up my whole life playing it, and that's with a smile. You do your best when you're relaxed.''
Hamilton gets any more relaxed and he really will be an automatic out. He stands casually in the batter's box holding his bat like he's waiting for the next slow-pitch softball to arrive.
At least Howard works up a sweat.
Worse yet, and you would hope there is a competitor brewing down deep there, Hamilton comes across like the poster child for every athlete who knows he has guaranteed money coming.
It's never good when the fans seem to care more than the guys competing to win or lose.
Meet your 2013 Angels.
"I know this is going to sound bad, and you can spin it whatever way you want, but when I was able to take the result part of the game out of it I learned something,'' Hamilton said.
"I know the game is based on results and the world wants to see results. But if I can take that out of the equation, play hard and prepare to the best of my abilities, the results are going to be there.''
He's right; it sounds bad.
"I don't live day to day by those results, which allows me to live a less stressful life,'' he said.
I would hope getting paid $125 million over the next five years on top of the $24 million he received the last two seasons with Texas would take all the stress out of life.
I'll never know. But I do wonder why he's not more thankful. We talked before Wednesday's game and I reminded him how inept he has been in driving the ball out of the park the opposite way. And I suggested he do better.
An hour or so later he homered, but before Thursday's game he refused to say thank you.
"I'll need to do it again,'' he said, as if he did it himself in the first place.
Then he went out and hit another home run, two homers in two days with Page 2's help after having two in the first 31 games.
I appreciate the offer, which I'm sure will be forthcoming, but I have no desire to replace Mike Scioscia.
I just found a way to make Hamilton care enough to prove himself after he repeatedly told me, "You cannot push my buttons.''
Once I'm gone, though, I worry his carefree approach will turn off fans as it did at times in Texas.
"I don't care,'' said Hamilton, and in addition to working on his home run swing, he needs help on how to talk to fans.
"I hear it from the stands every night. You have to come to the understanding that people like to bring up your weaknesses and failures and throw them in your face.
"But it doesn't get to me what anyone says. When you have the mind-set of what I have been forgiven for already, these people, these human beings bringing up things that God has already forgiven me for, it has no effect on me whatsoever.
"I will never ever satisfy or make 80% of the population understand me, love me or care anything for me. They will have no feel for me or understand what I stand for, which is my relationship with the Lord.''
The Angels signed him to hit baseballs. The facts are sometimes blunt, but most fans probably care more about his swing than his relationship with the Lord.
"I understand,'' Hamilton said. "We're all different. It depends on your starting point, and mine is the Bible.''
Given that context, he had dropped below the Methuselah line before being motivated by Page 2.
"Does it mention anywhere in the Bible,'' I asked, "what it takes to hit more home runs?''
"That would go to prayer,'' Hamilton said.
He has what most folks would want in an athlete. He's personable and approachable, offering a pat on the fanny to almost everyone he meets, including sports columnists. He signs autographs before batting practice, after batting practice and Thursday he huddled for prayer with a young man who found lifesaving inspiration in Hamilton's book about his struggles with addiction.
But how about living up to expectations as a superstar?
"Perseverance produces character, and I've persevered through a lot of things in life,'' he said. "But it never stops. They say you grow in your faith and you either grow closer to the Lord or you get pissed off and move away from Him.''
Some of what he has to say sounds programmed, or even rehearsed. Maybe you have to know him better, or have a better grasp of what he has overcome.
Or ignore his insistence on letting everyone know he doesn't care what they think — which lets you know he really does.
"It's important to me to do well and that's why I work hard to improve every day,'' he said. "But when the game is over I stop thinking about it.''
If only it was so easy for Angels fans.
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