Pitchers steal a quick glance as soon as Dayton's Billy Hamilton
reaches first base. After that, Hamilton is the one doing the stealing.
"He's got game-changing speed," Reds Minor League field coordinator Freddie Benavides said of Hamilton. "The other night, Billy walked, then he stole second and then he stole third. He disrupts the whole game. He attacks the pitcher's concentration when he's on base and he helps his hitters out because catchers are calling for fastballs to get this kid out. I haven't seen anything like it in a long time."
Hamilton, a 6-foot-1, 160-pound blur on the basepaths, boasts 16 stolen bases in 18 games for the Dragons.
"Speed is one thing, but you have to learn to read the pitcher," Hamilton said of stealing bases. "Speed can't help a whole lot if you get a bad jump."
Although Hamilton appears to be on a fast track to the Major Leagues, the Dragons shortstop said he has a long way to go before he is satisfied with his basestealing ability.
"I've got a lot to learn," Hamilton said. "I've got to read pitches a little bit better. I want to find my spot where I can get back with ease. If I get back with ease, I know I can get another step. Basically, it's finding my position over there at first base."
Hamilton, a second-round Draft pick (57th overall) in 2009, tries to be a disruptive force when he gets on base.
"Baserunning is big part of the game," he said. "You know your job is to get on base, whether it's a walk, strikeout-passed ball. When you get on base, you know you have a chance to steal a base.
"When I'm on base, the defense comes in. They know I have speed. When I hit the ball, it puts pressure on the defense for them to come up and get the ball, and they may rush and make a bad throw. If I get on base, they have to rush because I may try to turn a single into a double."
Hamilton said he loves creating havoc for enemy pitchers and defenses, although his teammates might enjoy the benefits of speed even more.
"It's fun for me, but it might be more fun for my teammates," Hamilton explained. "They come up to the plate knowing they're going to get a fastball because I might be running. The offense behind me always tells me it's good batting behind me."
Hamilton, who was a top football recruit from Taylorsville, Miss., turned down offers from Southeastern Conference, Big Ten and Atlantic Coast Conference schools to sign with the Reds. He's batting .243 this season after hitting .318 last year and .205 in 2009. A switch-hitter, Hamilton is batting .333 against lefties and .186 vs. righties.
"It was a tough transition, becoming a switch-hitter and going from batting right to left," he said. "I started switch-hitting when I got to the Minor Leagues. But the big thing is my speed works for me. You have a lot of options when you have speed. I can get the bunt down, get a few infield singles, and then when the infield comes in, bloop it over their heads.
"I had thoughts about not doing switch-hitting. I didn't think I would be that good at it. But now I love switch-hitting. Hitting with the left hand is working out in my favor. To be a switch-hitting leadoff guy with speed is a pretty good thing."
Benavides said that Hamilton's switch-hitting is a work-in-progress.
"We're talking about raw talent, but our scouts did a great job finding this guy," Benavides said. "He's new to switch-hitting, he's getting better. He didn't want to switch-hit last year, but we didn't let him stop and it's been a blessing. He really worked at it last year and was tremendous."
Goat to hero: Bowling Green catcher Luke Bailey erased a rough night and a two-run South Bend lead in the bottom of the ninth inning with one swing of the bat. He committed three errors that helped the Silver Hawks grab a 4-2 lead. With two outs and two strikes, Bailey blasted a three-run walk-off homer to make Tuesday both a night to remember and a night to forget.
Fleet feet: Cedar Rapids' Travis Witherspoon put Kane County's defense on the run on Monday. He stole four bases to help the Kernels post a 6-1 victory. Cedar Rapids totaled six steals in the game.
Big turnaround: Dayton's Devin Lohman started that season 0-for-17, but the Reds prospect is batting .343 with 11 RBIs since then. He currently owns a six-game hit streak.