By: Travis Thayer
Imagine a minor-league baseball game that has more hot dogs in the stadium than people. Although there aren’t many people in the seats, all eyes are on the man standing on third base. He takes his lead, and the pitcher comes to the plate. The ball is hit into very shallow right field. As that ball is soaring high in the air the man on third has retreated to the bag. The second baseman catches the shallow fly ball, but as he does the man on third is tagging up and heading for home. In the blink of an eye Billy Hamilton is crossing home plate, scoring on a ball to the second baseman! That’s right, the second baseman.
Billy Hamilton is still a year away from making his major league debut, but the Cincinnati Reds top prospect has already made a name for himself. Last year, Hamilton set the minor-league record for most steals in a single season with 155. To put that in perspective no major league player has stolen a hundred bases since 1987. In fact, nobody has even come close with the exception of the stolen base king Rickey Henderson. (93 in ’88)
His legend has been growing for some time now. Hamilton has been clocked running to first base in 3.64 seconds. That is 30 or so feet per second for those counting at home. He has also been clocked running an inside the park home run in 13.8. I won’t do the math this time, but boy is that fast. Hamilton has a chance to redefine the game of baseball, and give fans a glimpse of excitement that more casual fans crave.
Hamilton is currently attending big league camp with the Cincinnati Reds for the first time. Although he will start the season at Triple A, Hamilton is getting valuable time surrounded by big league players. The recent position change from shortstop to centerfield is the primary reason why Hamilton is still a year away from the big leagues.
As a native of Cincinnati, I have never felt so much excitement for a player as I do for Hamilton (even Aroldis Chapman). I haven’t seen Hamilton play live and I’ve barely seen him on television, but one thing is for certain he is the most entertaining baseball player I have ever seen.
Whether it is the 2014 season or a late call-up this season, Hamilton is the future leadoff hitter for the Reds, a position that they have desperately tried to fill. Shin-Soo Choo provides a one year short-term solution for the Reds, but expect Billy “The Kid” to make an impact in Great American Ballpark in the very near future. It sure will be sweet to see his name in a lineup that already consists of former MVP Joey Votto, and All-Stars Jay Bruce and Brandon Phillips. Upon his arrival to the bigs there will be a greater number of people in the seats, but one thing will remain the same all eyes will be on Billy Hamilton.