Billy Hamilton's speedy rise
Billy Hamilton can't remember ever running on a track, so he has no idea what his time in the 100 meters would be. There was a day, he said, that he was asked to run a 40-yard dash at a football camp in Mississippi.
"I ran a 4.5 flat," he recalled Thursday evening. "I was in the ninth grade."
That's a respectable time for NFL running backs. But that was six years ago and Hamilton, 21, is faster now, as he wrecks stolen-base records in the minor leagues. Not long after that conversation, he went 4-for-5 and stole two more bases for the Class A Bakersfield Blaze, bringing his season total to 82 -- in 67 games.
His next attempt will be his 100th -- he's been thrown out 17 times -- and Hamilton is swiftly approaching benchmarks established by previous generations of minor-leaguers. According to records maintained by Baseball America, Otis Nixon stole the most bases for any player in Triple-A since 1962, swiping 94 in 1983. Donell Nixon swiped 102 for Chattanooga in 1984, the most in Double-A.
If Hamilton remains in Class A for the rest of the season, he would appear to have an excellent shot at breaking the record for most steals for any player, at any level, since 1962 -- Vince Coleman's 145, set in 1983 for Class A Macon.
But Hamilton has given the Reds a lot of reason to think about promoting him, given his improvement at the plate. Hamilton is hitting .331 and, more importantly, has raised his on-base percentage to .416. He has 53 walks and could be on his way to 100 for the season.
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