Billy Hamilton is stealing bases at one of the best clips in Minor League Baseball history, and the shortstop is well aware of that fact. But he's also proving he can use his speed in other ways.
The Reds' top prospect set a career high with three doubles Friday in Class A Advanced Bakersfield's 4-3 win over Modesto. He also added two RBIs, two runs scored and -- of course -- two stolen bases. He now has 96 swipes in 75 games for the Blaze.
With the 3-for-4 performance at the plate, Hamilton extended his hitting streak to a career-long 14 games dating back to June 12, besting his previous high of 13 games established from May 21-June 3 earlier this season. His batting average sits at .330, a full 52 points higher than his .278 mark for Class A Dayton last season.
"I'm definitely feeling very comfortable," he said. "Everything's going pretty well for me. I'm just making solid contact and trying to get on base, and it's working out."
But his skipper thinks it's a little more than just good wood that has Hamilton thriving at the dish.
"He's doing what he's always done," said Bakersfield manager Ken Griffey Sr. "He's been a good hitter for us all year long, but recently, he's just hitting the ball harder. He had three doubles tonight. That shows something about what he can do.
"With the speed he has, he can do anything when he's hitting, and we all knew that coming in."
That being said, all anyone in baseball circles seems to want to discuss is Hamilton's ever-climbing stolen-base total.
Following doubles in the first and third innings Friday, the 21-year-old swiped third base each time. (He was picked off second after his third double in the seventh.) He stands four away from the century mark in that category. As the triple digits loom over him, the Mississippi native won't deny he's thinking about becoming the first California League player with 100 steals since Donell Nixon (144) in 1983. The Minor League record is 145 set by Vince Coleman in the South Atlantic League that same year.
"Of course I'm paying attention," he said. "Everybody's getting behind me, and you've got everybody in the stands talking about it. It's definitely something I'm aware of, and I'm aiming to get it soon."
In fact, he's gunning for No. 100 more or less to just get it over with.
"It'll be nice for sure because like I said, it'll be a good thing not to have the pressure of 100 over me anymore," he added.
Even those around him are preparing for that day.
"It'll be an exciting day for him, and an exciting day for the rest of the team," Griffey said. "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."
As for when that day will specifically come, Hamilton said he doesn't have any exact expectations.
"There's no predictions, no predictions," he said. "It'll happen eventually, but I'm not too worried about that right now."