Billy Hamilton steals 146th base, sets minor-league record

Now you see him, now you don’t. Here today, gone tomorrow. Faster than a speeding bullet.

None of these phrases quite do justice to Billy Hamilton, the Cincinnati Reds prospect who on Tuesday broke the minor league record for stolen bases, formerly held by legendary speedster Vince Coleman, by swiping his 146th bag of the season in a game for the Double-A Penascola Blue Wahoos.

Hamilton then proceeded to steal yet another bag later in the game, the first of a doubleheader, giving him four on the day. As this story went to the editors, he had yet to record a steal in the nightcap.

For Hamilton, stealing bases oftentimes feels like second nature.

“I feel like if I get my jumps, I know I’m cool,” said Hamilton in a recent New York Times profile. “When I get to first, I’m confident I can’t be thrown out.”

Unlike many other prolific minor league base stealers who have come and gone without ever making a significant mark, however, Hamilton is not a one-dimensional player. His on-base percentage is through the roof at .417, and 37 of his 150 hits have gone for extra bases. His exploits have him under consideration for Minor League Player of the Year.

As of now, Hamilton — who turns 22 next month — projects as a 2014 call-up. But with his Reds making a strong playoff push without a whole lot of speed, could Hamilton see some action as a September call-up?

“Possibly,” says Reds manager Dusty Baker. “Speed’s always an asset. Speed kills.”