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Rangers’ Hamilton returns to Anaheim

The Texas Rangers players who were at Globe Life Park on April 5, 2013, remember the scene well as Josh Hamilton played against the Rangers for the first time.

“It was bad,” shortstop Elvis Andrus said.

But not unexpected, said Andrus, from a passionate Rangers fan base that felt Hamilton had left without giving the Rangers a chance to counter the Los Angeles Angels’ free-agent offer, as he had said he would, and had felt disrespected when Hamilton said that the Metroplex wasn’t a baseball town.

That came after five years of the fans wrapping their arms around Hamilton, and they responded strongly. Some attempted a Silence for Josh campaign, but the majority of fans greeted him with choruses of boos, curse words, one-fingered salutes and even remarks toward his then-wife. They cheered loudly when he made an out.

Hamilton gets to go through it all again tonight as he returns to Angel Stadium after two disappointing seasons and a messy springtime breakup and trade to the Rangers after he confessed to relapsing with drugs and alcohol.

When he addressed his Orange County return Wednesday with the local writers, Hamilton downplayed what might take place in the opener of a three-game series between division rivals.

“I haven’t thought about it once,” Hamilton said. “I don’t know how many times I can say it. When I was there, I did everything I could to be the player they wanted me to be and they expected me to be.

“Once I’m not there anymore, I’m done with that. I haven’t thought about it. I’ve had a lot of other things to think about.”

Among them were trying to get ready for a season after the Angels didn’t issue him a locker for spring training after right shoulder surgery, sorting out a divorce settlement and coping with an injured left hamstring.

He also dealt with questions about his relationship with the Angels earlier this month when he faced them at the Globe. He has put any disagreements with owner Arte Moreno and manager Mike Scioscia behind him.

“That’s the perfect way to say it,” Hamilton said. “I don’t hold grudges or sit around and think about what kind of bad relationships I’ve had or experiences with people. If I were to see Arte, I would shake his hand and ask him how he’s doing. That’s just who I am. That’s how I leave it.”

While Hamilton doesn’t hold grudges, he knows fans do. He wasn’t expecting the kind of reaction he received from Rangers fans in 2013, and said afterward that he was disappointed and was hurt by it.

“I wouldn’t be human if it didn’t,” he said.

But he also said that he was more nervous returning to Arlington for the first time than he will be as he heads back to Anaheim. He knows that the fans will come after him but isn’t worried about it.

“I enjoyed my teammates when I was there, and I had good encounters with fans,” Hamilton said. “But other than that …”

Texas Rangers left fielder Josh Hamilton returns to Anaheim tonight after spending two disappointing seasons with the Angels. AP PHOTO