Is there a more obscure thing to be really, really good at then stealing bases in the minor leagues?
This is Billy Hamilton, and you’ve probably at least heard something about him by now. He’s got 141 steals this year while playing in the Reds’ minor league system, and he’s got some time to add to that total.
But he’s not that fast. Seriously. I mean, don’t get me wrong, he’s fast, but I doubt he’s faster than say…Jacoby Ellsbury? Or Michael Bourn? Yet somehow, this wily little 21-year-old just gets on base, takes second and then takes third. He’s just got perfect technique, it seems, or he’s just taking advantage of the fact that minor league pitchers have never heard of the slidestep.
To go with the 141 steals, he’s also been caught 31 times. That means he’s attempted 162 steals, and it’s mid-August. Who the hell gets on base enough times to attempt 162 steals? He’s hitting .315, so he’s getting on fairly regularly, but holy cow. Has he ever reached first base and not stolen? To have that many attempts, he would basically have to steal every time he reaches base. He might even have to steal first once and a while.
He’s chasing “Vince Coleman’s minor league steal record” of 145 steals, which is kind of like chasing the money title on the Nationwide Tour or the “most tacos eaten in a single sitting at Taco Bell” award. It’s not exactly…relevant. It reminds me of those people who get really, really into minor league pennant races without taking into account that the team they’re rooting for exists only to make the Major League team better – and that half the players are going to be taken away and brought up to the Major League team in September, just in time for that intense chase for the International League championship to really heat up.
Does he have to write a letter to the Coleman family if he breaks the record? Will the Coleman family be in the crowd for every one of Hamilton’s games going forward, just so they can see in person their beloved Vince’s record fall?
I hope Hamilton’s hair starts falling out like Roger Maris’s did when he got closer and closer to Babe Ruth’s record in 1961. I want the immense pressure of potentially passing Vince Coleman’s illustrious minor league mark just to take a toll on Hamilton, and Billy Crystal to make a movie called “Billy.”
“Billy is the story of a young man in the minor leagues who fought to overcome all odds…and himself. The most highly-anticipated minor league base stealing movie in decades, Pixar presents…Billy.”
So how does this translate, anyway? Can he steal 100 bags in the majors? Will he try to steal and continually get thrown out by 20 feet, driving him towards a lifetime of hardship in which he was never the same after his magical 2012 campaign that saw him become the darling of Bakersfield, California? I’m sure he’ll be a September call-up for Cincinnati, which has championship hopes, so we’ll get the answer to that question soon enough.
I just wish the guy who was stealing 140 bases was a little bit faster. He should be Usain Bolt fast, but it just seems like he’s Carl Crawford fast instead – and I mean Crawford now, not Crawford when he was stealing 50 bases for the Rays. Who knows though, maybe Hamilton will become Rickey Henderson 2.0, start stealing tons of bases, talking in the third person, leaning over the plate, playing the game until he’s 53, somehow having the most walks of all-time and just genuinely being a strange, strange man.
That’s something to aspire to.