17 June 2012
A minor league record is about to be broken. A record that has stood for many years. The man to do it, Billy Hamilton, of the Bakersfield Blaze a Pacific Coast League team of the Reds.
I saw Billy Hamilton play in many games with the Billings Mustangs, the Reds rookie league here in Billings. He was two things - laser fast and extremely likable. He won the Fan's Choice award for his quick smile and rapport with the fans. He won a promotion to the next level with his speed. He was fast. Not just, oh he's fast. But OH HE'S FAST! Other teams goal when playing him was just to try to keep him off the bases. If he was on the bases, he was running, end of story. It was not a question, it was a given. Billy Hamilton was always a blaze.
At the end of the first half of the season for the Bakersfield Blaze, Hamilton has 80 stolen bases. That's not a typo. He has EIGHTY stolen bases through half a season. At his current pace of 1.3 steals per game, he is on pace to tally up 157 stolen bases on the season. That in itself is almost unbelievable. The man who holds the All-Time stolen base record in the minor leagues is Vince Coleman who in 1983 for Macon stole 145.
Right now, Billy Hamilton has as many steals for his half season as in team in the Pacific Coast, Eastern or Texas League. Hamilton has 17 games this season where he hasn't stolen a single base. He has 20 games this year where he's stolen more than one. He's had two games where he's stolen four and four more where he's stolen three. He's yet to get thrown out twice in one game. He has been successful on 83.5 percent of his steal attempts.
Records at the Minor League level are rare for many reasons. The first being that the Pacific Coast League used to play 200 games a season. Also, the Minors used to have a very uneven distribution of the talent pool. Before 1962 when a uniform farm system was established, a Minor League rookie player could find himself playing on teams with semi-pro players. In years past, a Minor League player might stay with his team for many years thus compiling records that cannot be matched today as players rarely stay with the same team for any real length of time.
What Hamilton is doing is amazing. He could be, if he stays healthy and on pace, one of the few players in the modern era to break a Minor League All-Time Record. Watch out, Billy "Blaze" is coming.
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