For his first day playing a game in an Angels uniform, Josh Hamilton did not bring enough bats.
Hamilton had three bats when the day began Tuesday. He broke one in batting practice. The other two broke in the game. When he looked down to see a crack in his lumber after fouling a pitch off in the fifth inning, at least he had a contingency plan in place.
“I told (Mark Trumbo) before the game, If I break one I’m going to come and get yours,” Hamilton said.
The bat broke, and Trumbo obliged.
It was a light spring moment, the kind that was easy to pass off as non-news-that-becomes-news-because-there’s-nothing-else-going-on-right-now.
But something is going on right now. Hamilton is finding it easier to blend in with his new teammates now than he did five years ago, when he was traded from the Cincinnati Reds to the Texas Rangers. Using a teammate’s bat to fly out in February may be small, but it might not be insignificant for the Angels’ new cleanup hitter.
Asked if switching teams is proving easier this time than it was last time, Hamilton paused.
“I would say yes,” he said. “Last time it was just, ‘OK, we gave you a shot, thanks for the help, see you.’ Which, I mean, was fine. But my wife and kids, we’ve got a few seasons under our belt now and kind of understand what goes on in the season, in spring training, what it entails. It’s busy.”
That’s probably a reflection of Hamilton’s maturity at age 31 compared to age 26, when he was traded from the Cincinnati Reds to the Texas Rangers after his rookie season. It could also be a testament to his teammates’ willingness to accept their $125 million man.
“He brings a ton of energy, a ton of confidence,” Trumbo said. “He’s really good at picking everybody else up around him. That’s really shown so far. He’s a good people person. We’re really fortunate to have him.”
Hamilton went 0-for-3 against the Arizona Diamondbacks, grounding out once and flying out twice, before exiting after five innings. The game was just as uneventful in the field for Hamilton, who didn’t have to move too much with fleet-footed center fielder Peter Bourjos getting to every ball in the gap before Hamilton or left fielder Vernon Wells seemed to move a step.
“It’s nice,” Hamilton said, pretending to watch a fly ball sail over his head. “Oh, you got that?”
Again, there was some wisdom behind Hamilton’s wit.
When Albert Pujols came to Anaheim last year on a 10-year, $240 million contract, he was not himself for the first month of the season. Pujols hit .216 in April of last year and .263 in May, well below his career .325 average.
“I’ll try not to do too much this April, which is what everybody was doing last year,” Pujols said recently. “Sometimes that happens. You try to do whatever it takes to help the team win, and you can press a little too much.”
“I was giving high-fives before the game and it was never ending,” he said. “I forgot it was spring training and there were 800 guys in the dugout.
“It was a good warm-up.”