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PADRES UPDATE : NOTEBOOK / BOB NIGHTENGALE : His Father's Illness Figured in Hamilton's Decision to Sign

September 21, 1991|BOB NIGHTENGALE

SAN DIEGO — When first-round pick Joey Hamilton agreed Thursday night to sign with the Padres for $385,000, everyone speculated on why he abruptly changed his mind and didn't attend Georgia Southern for his senior year.

It was the money, right? It was Padre chairman Tom Werner's intervention in negotiations, right? Hamilton simply didn't want to go back to school, right?

Hamilton wishes those factors really did influence his decision, but, truth be told, his father was the reason he signed.

"If circumstances were different," said Janet Hamilton, Joey's mother, "I think Joey would be in school today. But he signed because of his father. It's been Jack's dream to have his son be a professional baseball player.

"He didn't want to take that away from him. Not now."

Jack Hamilton, Joey's father, is dying of cancer.

The cancer was diagnosed in the summer of 1990 when Joey was playing baseball for Team USA in Canada. Joey never knew his father was in intensive care while he was playing. He never knew his father was having half of his stomach and half of his esophagus removed.

"It was very hard for Joey to think clearly, for all of us to think clearly during the negotiations," Janet Hamilton said. "If things had been different, we might have done it differently. But there's nothing we can change about it.

"Joey wanted to make sure his father was alive when he became a pro ballplayer."

It's unknown how much longer Jack Hamilton will live. There's nothing more that Joey would relish than to pitch for Class A Charleston next season and have his dad watching him in the stands. Yet, he doesn't know if that's possible. The cancer has spread, and for the past three weeks Jack has had to travel for treatment five times a week to Savannah, Ga.

"Jack used to watch Joey pitch every game," Janet Hamilton said, "but this year, he started to miss games. You could tell it bothered Joey. He'd look up in the stands, trying to find where his father normally sits, but he wasn't there a few games.

"He didn't know those were the times Jack had to go the hospital."

"Jack and Joey are very, very close and it's been tough on him all season."

The Hamiltons were hoping to celebrate their signing tonight, but Jack's not feeling well, Janet Hamilton said, and did not feel strong enough Friday to even leave the house.

Joey Hamilton is scheduled to arrive in San Diego today, along with agent Scott Boras, to sign his contract. Janet and Jack Hamilton hoped they could attend, but now it isn't possible.

"I've always heard San Diego is a beautiful place," Janet Hamilton said, "maybe I can come out next year.

"Maybe \o7 we\f7 can all come out."

The Padres, in what promises to be another winter of personnel turnover, have fired three minor league coaches, lost two scouts and have begun a search for a new scouting director.

Sources said Padre scouting director Randy Smith will be named Wednesday as scouting director/farm director of the Colorado Rockies, one of the two National League expansion teams. Smith, 28, who has been with the organization since 1984, became the Padres' scouting director in 1988. He was listed a year ago by Baseball America as one of the "Ten People Who'll Influence Baseball in the '90s."

The Padres have also decided that Steve Lubratich, the double-A Wichita manager the past two years, will become their new advance scout. He'll replace Denny Sommers, who resigned last week in an attempt to become a coach once again.

The three minor-league coaches who have been fired are Jack Maloof, Wichita; Jimmy Lester, Class A Waterloo; and Mark Littell, Class A High Desert. The scouts who resigned are Dale Sutherland, their Southern California scout, and Rich Chiles, their Northern California scout.

There also are expected to be several more resignations from scouts in the next few weeks because of Smith's departure.

It's unknown who'll replace Smith, although Larry Corrigan, the Minnesota Twins' West Coast scouting supervisor, is considered to be a leading candidate.

Tony Gwynn, who underwent arthroscopic knee surgery Wednesday, showed up Friday at the Padre clubhouse to begin his rehabilitative process. "There was a lot of pain (Thursday)," Gwynn said, "but I feel good today. I can deal with surgery pain, it was the pain before I had trouble with." Although Gwynn wouldn't officially rule himself out the rest of the season, he said it was highly doubtful he'd be able to return. . . . Jose Melendez has been announced as the scheduled starter Sunday for the Padres, taking the place of Bruce Hurst. Melendez has made six starts this season for the Padres but has pitched exclusively in the bullpen since June 27.

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