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Hamilton steals 100th base of season07/03/2012 2:33 AM ET
By Sam Dykstra / Special to MLB.com
The biggest story in the Minor Leagues just reached a new level. Or rather, a new digit.
Billy Hamilton stole two bases Monday night to give him an even 100 on the season in his 78th game of the season. He finished 1-for-3 with a walk and a run scored for Class A Advanced Bakersfield, but the Blaze fell to Lake Elsinore, 3-2.
The Reds' top prospect reached the century mark in steals for the second straight season after swiping 103 for Class A Dayton one year ago, although it took him 134 games to reach triple digits. He becomes the second California League player to total 100 steals in a season since Donell Nixon had 144 -- also for Bakersfield -- in 1983.
Hamilton stole base No. 99 following a fifth-inning walk and then reached the century mark after singling and stealing second on a 1-0 fastball by Greg Gonzalez to lead off the eighth inning, the final frame in which he would find himself on the basepaths Monday. Lake Elsinore hitting coach David Newman was ejected by umpire John Bostwick for arguing the safe call on the milestone steal.
The 21-year-old shortstop's 100 steals lead all professional baseball players. By comparison, Astros' No. 8 prospect Delino DeShields, Jr. ranks second with 57 thefts for Class A Lexington and Major Leaguer leader Dee Gordon has accrued only 28 thefts for the Dodgers.
Hamilton jokingly told MiLB.com in May that his goal is to double last year's mark of 103. But next up is Nixon's Cal League record and just beyond that is Vince Coleman's Minor League best of 145, also set in 1983, in the South Atlantic League. The Mississippi native seemed confident that he could potentially reach both numbers before season's end.
"I mean, it's possible," he said. "I think 144 is possible, but I'm not saying I'm going to go out and get 144. I knew  would be tough to double, but I didn't set any goals. I just want to get better, come work on my jump and whatever happens, happens."
But for the time being, Hamilton and those around him had been preparing for Monday's feat as late as last week.
"It'll be an exciting day for him, and an exciting day for the rest of the team," Bakersfield manager Ken Griffey Sr. told MiLB.com. "Like I've said, he's the catalyst for this team. Everything we do offensively comes from him or through him, so it'll be a big day for everyone."
Eddy Rodriguez hit a solo homer and a double as part of a 2-for-3 night and Vince Belnome homered for the Storm.
Lake Elsinore starter Burch Smith (7-4) allowed one run on three hits and struck out eight over six innings.