By Larry Fine
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Slugging outfielder Josh Hamilton, who helped the Texas Rangers reach their first World Series, capped a storybook season Tuesday by winning the American League's Most Valuable Player award.
A talented defensive outfielder and swift baserunner, Hamilton's greatest achievement went beyond the numbers and to his comeback from drug and alcohol addictions that forced him out of the game several years before he battled his way back.
"It's awesome to think about where I am at this moment and where I was," Hamilton told reporters on a conference call.
The Texas outfielder was listed first on 22 of the 28 ballots cast by two writers in each league city in the voting by the Baseball Writers' Association of America.
Detroit Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera received five first-place votes and was runner-up in the voting. Cabrera led the league in RBI (126) and on base percentage (.420), was second in batting (.328) and hit 38 homers.
Hamilton helped the Rangers win the American League West and advance past the Tampa Bay Rays and New York Yankees to send the team to the World Series for the first time in the 50-year existence of the franchise.
As a teenager, Hamilton was regarded as one of the best prospects in professional baseball but almost threw it all away when he got hooked on crack cocaine.
After some dark years, Hamilton cleaned himself up, dedicating himself to religion and rehabilitation.
"There was a 99 percent chance that this would never happen," Hamilton said about the low points of his early 20s. "It was a 100 percent chance if I tried to do it on my own. I couldn't do it on my own. With God, all things are possible."
On the diamond, Hamilton said he believed his all-round production brought him the MVP.
"When I was playing this year I really felt like I did those things."
Hamilton acknowledged some disappointment in losing the Fall Classic to the San Francisco Giants.
"We made a lot of history in Texas that had never been done before," the North Carolina native said.
"Obviously you'd like to win the thing if you're there. But we got a lot to be proud of. At the same time, that's also going to fuel our fire to get ready for next year."
(Editing by Steve Ginsburg)