Billy Hamilton stole 13 bases in 13 games last year, and yet, there were those who said he wasn’t ready for the big leagues, mainly because they feared he couldn’t hit.
Well, Hamilton is batting .281 as a leadoff hitter for the Cincinnati Reds this season. He was also the National League Rookie of the Month in June – during which he hit .327 – and he’s batting over .350 with runners in scoring position.
“It’s been coming along well for me,” Hamilton said on The MoJo Show. “I’ve been driving in a few runs, so it’s been great.”
Hamilton has 37 RBIs this year. He also has 37 steals.
Believe it or not, Hamilton – who stole 103 bases in the minors in 2011 and 155 in 2012 – was never much of a base-stealer as an amateur. And then he met Delino DeShields.
“Delino DeShields is the main guy who really taught me how to steal bases,” Hamilton said. “I didn’t do it in high school. In high school, you just try to hit home runs all the time. As soon as I got drafted, DeShields brought me in (and said), ‘I’m going to teach you how to steal bases.’ I give all credit to him.”
DeShields stole 463 bases in his 13-year career.
Needless to say, it’s much tougher to steal in the majors than the minors.
“It’s a big adjustment,” Hamilton said. “These guys here, they hold the ball. They do everything they can just to make me feel like I’ve got to do something different. But I’ve been relaxing.”
Not only is Hamilton learning how to hit and steal in the majors, but he also learning how to field. He began his professional career as a shortstop but plays centerfield for the Reds.
“Whatever gets me to the big leagues is what I’m going to do,” Hamilton said, explaining his mindset before the move. “Once I first got out there, I was like, ‘Oh, man, it’s tougher than it looks.’ But it’s been good. Eric Davis has been one of those guys who’s made it (easier) for me. I listened to him because he (made) the same exact (move) from shortstop to centerfield. He’s making it easier for me. I feel really good out there. It’s definitely what I want to do.”
All in all, it’s been a pretty successful year for Hamilton, who is one of the main reasons that the Reds (49-42) have won five straight. In fact, he went 4-for-8 with a walk-off single in a double-header against Chicago on Tuesday.
“Every day I wake up, like, ‘When am I going to come out of this dream?,’” Hamilton said. “I’m in the big leagues. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do. I still feel like it’s not true; it’s a dream. But as of now, everything’s fine and we’re playing great ball, which is always fun when you’re winning. Everything’s going well for us right now. So every day I come to the (ball park) looking to get another win. We’re having fun. That’s the main thing.”
As for Rookie of the Year, Hamilton is the clear-cut favorite in the NL. Then again, it’s July.
“We’ve got a lot of baseball left,” he said. “I feel like if I keep playing the way I’m playing, it’ll happen. So my job is to come out here every day and keep learning and keep playing ball. If it happens, it happens. It’d be a great honor, but right now, I’m just focusing on getting better, learning stuff and trying to get wins.”