MiLBYs are the end-of-season awards that honor the best players, teams and performances of the Minor League season. For three weeks, fans chose their favorites in 11 categories, and now we're announcing the Fans' Choice winners as well as MiLB.com staff picks for the major awards.
The best home run of the year didn't even leave the park. Only Billy Hamilton could steal that notoriety, too.
Hamilton's inside-the-park homer and record-breaking stolen base efforts in 2012 earned him a pair of MiLBY Awards this week, while Mike Trout's equally blazing speed on the basepaths, scoring from first on a single, garnered him the nod for Play of the Year.
Best Home Run: Hamilton, the Reds' top prospect, won MiLBY Awards for both Home Run of the Year and Moment of the Year. The converted outfielder hit just two homers in 2012, and yet still managed to earn hardware in that category. Why? He rounded the bases in 13.8 seconds, a stat that Baseball Prospectus' Larry Granillo, who tracks home run trots, said may have been the fastest on record.
That's not a stat that impresses Hamilton too much, though -- he thinks he could have been even quicker.
"I felt like I was falling down a little rounding third, I felt like I could have ran a little faster," said Hamilton. "I had to catch my feet again and caught my balance."
Hamilton drove a fly ball to right-center field on July 15 against Jacksonville, and Suns outfielder Kyle Jensen made a diving attempt to catch it. The ball appeared to deflect off Jensen's glove and eventually off the outfield wall as Hamilton raced around the bases like an Olympic sprinter, crossing the plate standing up without a throw.
"I hit it in the gap, so I'm always thinking triple, and once I got to third, I see the coach wasn't yelling to hold up, so I knew I had a chance," said Hamilton. "I just got on and used my speed a little bit."
Hamilton said the homer was his fourth inside-the-parker in four years. Getting one has been a goal of sorts for him each season.
"I don't hit that many balls out of the park that much, and I've had this streak that I wanted to get an inside-the-parker, so this was my chance to do it," he said. "It felt good. I've been playing four years, and I've got one every year since I've been drafted."
Hamilton had just three homers in 2011 and two the year before, so while power isn't part of his game as a leadoff man, he's shown that no deep fly ball is routine when it comes to taking an extra base, or two, or three.
One of the most impressive aspects of the play was that Hamilton scored without a throw, standing up, slowing down slightly as he crossed the plate. He said he knew he'd be safe whether it was a close play or not.
"Of course I think I'm gonna be safe every time I do stuff," he said. "I felt like I was going to be safe no matter what, standing up -- I have confidence I can't be thrown out."
Best Moment: That mindset also illustrates his second MiLBY -- Hamilton went on a mission to break baseball's all-time record for stolen bases in a season. How far did he go? He attempted 192 steals in 132 games.
Hamilton's record-setting 146th stolen base of the season on Aug. 21 also earned him a MiLBY for Moment of the Year. In a season-long quest to break Vince Coleman's record of 145 set in 1983, the Mississippi native swiped third base against Montgomery's Kyle Lobstein en route to stealing 155 bases this summer.
"I felt relieved, I felt like I did my job," Hamilton said. "I did what I had to do."
Hamilton clearly put a lot of pressure on himself to finish the task after the baseball world began taking notice of his speed and run at the record. In the moment he captured the record, it was a wave of relief.
"I knew all this stuff would be over with," he said. "I wouldn't be stressing out every day, hearing about breaking the record, knowing this is over. I wasn't even really thinking about the record, just that it's over with."
But when teammates, coaches and fans began celebrating the effort, Hamilton said he realized what he'd accomplished.
"I realized it's a big thing to do," he said.
Fans and teammates recognized the history they'd witnessed -- Hamilton's helmet was swapped out and grounds crew members saved the base Hamilton stole while Pensacola players gave their shortstop a standing ovation from the dugout.
Hamilton said he's loaned some of his uniform and items from that day to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown.
"I still have the base, but I sent the helmet, batting gloves and my cleats to the Hall of Fame," he said. "It's makes you feel good -- you'll be known forever. You know you can take your kids, take them to the Hall and show them."
The Reds prospect said he even got offers from people to sell the memorabilia.
"Some people wanted to buy the stuff," he said. "But I'm glad it's in the Hall -- that's something you'll always been known for."
What does Hamilton remember most from the moment? The reaction and joy from his teammates on the field.
"It felt like my players showed me a bunch of love," he said. "I got a standing ovation, all the guys, even the guy who came over from the batter's box. It felt good -- they had my back the whole time -- it felt good doing this."
Best Play: Trout's dash around the bases was a bit less-heralded but was nonetheless recognized by fans who have watched the former top prospect blossom into an MVP candidate at the Major League level.
Trout, who played in only 20 games at Triple-A Salt Lake before getting called up, was on first base on April 14 with the Bees trailing by two runs. Alexi Amarista was at the plate, and Salt Lake put on the hit-and-run, sending the speedy Trout to second on contact.
But when Trout reached second on Amarista's single to right, he kept going. Tucson right fielder Sawyer Carroll didn't help his cause when he softly tossed the ball back to second base -- the TV announcer termed it a "lolly-pop throw" -- and Trout, using the speed that garnered him 49 steals in the Majors, rounded third and slid safely across the plate.