ST. PETERSBURG -- Josh Hamilton made a decision early Wednesday morning before he arrived at Tropicana Field. He is trying to quit using smokeless tobacco.
"Today is the first day," Hamilton said before the Rangers' series finale with the Rays. "The Holy Spirit ... I kept waking up last night thinking about different things and what might be causing me to stumble in my relationship with the Lord. I felt like chewing tobacco was one. So I got up this morning and threw it all away. So when it is time to take a dip, I pray instead."
Smokeless tobacco has been banned in the Minor Leagues since 1993, and Commissioner Bud Selig wants it banned at the Major League level. He sent a letter at the beginning of the season to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids that he wanted to ban it at the Major League level, but needs the consent of the Players Association. It is one of the issues being discussed in the current Collective Bargaining Agreement.
Former Rangers manager Bobby Valentine wrote in the New York Times that "smokeless tobacco use among high school boys has climbed 36 percent since 2003. The tobacco industry is spending record sums to market smokeless products, and is promoting them as a substitute for cigarettes. Major League players who chew tobacco on the field are, in effect, providing free advertising for these efforts."
Hamilton knew that his habit of chewing tobacco was not setting a good example.
"I didn't care," Hamilton said. "I'm human, I like to feed my fleshly desires just like anybody else does. But there comes a point when you realize those things aren't important or necessary."
Hamilton cares now and has shed far worse habits. He was able to overcome a serious drug and alcohol addiction that took away 3 1/2 years from the game and almost completely ruined his baseball career. He's not sure, though, that he'll completely shed himself of all bad habits.
"I'm sure I'll pick up more," Hamilton said. "I won't try, but I'm sure I will. There is always stuff you have to deal with. You just have to limit the number."