BALTIMORE — If the Hall of Fame ever comes calling for the last baseball Josh Hamilton hit over the wall on Tuesday night, the Texas Rangers slugger might need some time to track it down.
Hamilton became the 16th player in major league history to hit four homers in a game during a 10-3 win over the Baltimore Orioles. The last two balls were retrieved and given to him after the game. The fourth was authenticated.
Hamilton, a former member of the Charleston RiverDogs, tossed the baseballs into his luggage at the team hotel, and he has no plans to showcase the record-tying ball in his house.
“It will probably end up in a closet or rolling down a slide in the backyard, the girls playing with it,” he said Wednesday without a trace of a grin.
The 18 total bases were an American League record, and the 5-for-5 performance gave him a .406 batting average with 14 homers and 36 RBIs — all tops in the AL.
Could a Triple Crown be in his future?
“I don’t think about it. I honestly don’t,” the center fielder said. “The chances of that happening are very, very, very, very, very, very slim. So why worry about something that won’t happen anyway?”
Hamilton isn’t counting on hitting four homers again anytime soon, either. After his incredible feat, he said it would take a while for the feeling to sink in, and by Wednesday he could appreciate the enormity of it.
“It means a lot. It’s special to me. But I can’t live there,” he said. “I take the confidence with me of having a good game, like I would if I was 4 for 5 or 5 for 5 with five singles. I’m getting on base and scoring runs. You take all those things with you, but you don’t take the moment to the next day because 99.9 percent of the time it isn’t going to happen again. One hundred percent of the time in the case of this. Don’t live there. Just come in here, prepare, and move forward.”
The 2010 AL MVP battled injuries last season and had sports hernia surgery in November. Then came a public relapse in his battle with drugs and alcohol when he had a few drinks at a Dallas restaurant in January and continued drinking later that night. He held a news conference a few days later to apologize for the incident.
Hamilton’s achievement against the Orioles certainly caught the attention of his fellow players, and it was still a topic of conversation around baseball on Wednesday.
“Hands down, he’s the best player in the American League,” Indians manager Manny Acta said. “He plays a premium position, he’s a five-tool guy. At times, like last night, he looks like a 15-year-old playing with 10-year-olds. He’s that talented.”
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle, who served as the Rangers’ hitting coach in 2010, played in the majors for parts of 10 seasons and said a good day for him was four homers during batting practice.
“I just sent him a text today and asked him I thought they outlawed using a tee in the American League,” Hurdle said.
Hamilton becomes a free agent after this season, and he’s not worried about his future. His thought is, if he’s meant to stay in Texas, then that is where he will end up.
“I’ve been completely able to block it out,” he said. “It’s easy for me to focus on playing baseball this season. Thinking about all that stuff, how to be the best I can be that night, doesn’t allow me to think about what’s going on in the next year.”
Manager Ron Washington was asked Wednesday whether he would give up his salary to keep Hamilton with the Rangers.
“If it will keep Hamilton here, he can have mine,” Washington said. “I’ll manage in this game for nothing.”
Especially if Hamilton provides the kind of thrill he did Tuesday night.
“I’m happy that it happened while he was in a Texas Rangers uniform,” Washington said. “You don’t get an opportunity to look at that very often. You just watch it happen. He’s certainly capable of doing it. Only 16 guys have done it, but every time Hamilton is at the plate something magical can happen, especially if he centered the baseball the way he did last night. All I could do is cheer.”