Billy Hamilton could turn off the lights from across the room and be in bed under the covers before the lights went out. Billy Hamilton once hit a line drive up the middle and was struck by the ball sliding into second base.
Those quotes, of course, were attributed to baseball legends Josh Gibson and Satchel Paige when talking about legendary speedster James "Cool Papa" Bell in the 1920s and '30s, but the same can be said for former Louisville Bats and current Cincinnati Reds center fielder, Billy Hamilton.
Hamilton was drafted as a shortstop by the Reds in the 2009 draft out of Taylorsville High School in Mississippi. He started to make headlines almost immediately after stepping onto a minor league field for the first time because of his blazing speed.
In his third professional season, he stole 103 bases in 123 attempts at the Class-A level for the Dayton Dragons in 2011. A season later, in 2012, was when his clout on the base paths garnered national attention.
Between High-A Bakersfield and Double-A Pensacola, Hamilton stole 155 bases in 192 attempts, setting a record for most stolen bases in a season by any professional baseball player since the statistic was accurately recorded, at any level.
He made his Louisville Bats debut the following season, appearing on the Bats' opening day roster as the starting center fielder and occupying the leadoff spot to begin the 2013 campaign. He played 123 games for Louisville that season, batting .256 (129-for-504) with 75 runs, 18 doubles, four triples, six home runs, 41 RBI, and 75 stolen bases.
Hamilton's 75 steals for the 2013 Bats are second-most in franchise history, trailing only Vince Coleman's 101 stolen bases for the 1984 Louisville Redbirds, then Triple-A affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals.
Hamilton's speed transitioned perfectly to the major league level, swiping 13 bags in just 13 games as a first-year player for the Reds in 2013. From 2014-17, he has stolen 56, 57, 58, and 59 bases, respectively. Since 2014, Hamilton's 230 stolen bases are most in the majors, 18 more than second place Dee Gordon's 212.
Heading into the 2018 season, Hamilton will look to increase his stolen base output for the fifth consecutive season. The speedy outfielder has cemented himself as the game's most dangerous man on the base paths, and one of the most elite defensive center fielders in baseball.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.