Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton has a lot of fans back in Tampa. Despite letting the organization down with his admitted use of crack cocaine, he was never looked at as a bad guy.
Tonigtht he returns to Tropican Field in St. Pete, Florida. Hamilton was drafted #1 overall by the Rays in 1999. Former teammate Carl Crawford is happy to see him tearing it up in a Rangers uniform.
The Tampa Tribune picks it up from here:
ST. PETERSBURG – Tampa Bay LF Carl Crawford and Texas Rangers OF Josh Hamilton are forever linked in Rays history as the franchise’s top two picks in the 1999 draft.
Hamilton, the No. 1 overall pick, is set to play today against the Rays for the first time since he was selected by the Cubs and traded to the Reds in the 2006 Rule 5 draft. It will be Hamilton’s first game as a major-leaguer at Tropicana Field.
Crawford, the Rays’ second-round pick in ’99, is glad to see Hamilton, 27, excel after an offseason trade sent him to Texas. Having apparently overcome the drug and alcohol problems that cost him most of the 2002-06 seasons, Hamilton leads the majors in RBIs with 53 and is among the AL leaders in batting average at .333 and home runs with 12.
“It’s refreshing to see,” Crawford said. “Everybody’s happy for him. Wish he was over here.”
Crawford and Hamilton were minor-league teammates from 1999-01 at rookie ball Princeton, Single-A Charleston and Double-A Orlando. Injuries and the aforementioned substance-abuse problems derailed Hamilton, even as Crawford became a major-league All-Star and the face of the Rays franchise.
Still, Crawford said he’s not entirely surprised Hamilton has begun to fulfill the massive potential he showed in the late ’90s and early 2000s.
“I didn’t never really count him out, because I knew the talent that he had,” Crawford said. “I figured if he could ever get clean, if there was a person that could do it, he definitely was the one that you think could get it done, that could do it. You just always said that if he could get clean, who knows what could happen?”