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Prospect Q&A: Hamilton a humble thief
Reds farmhand on stealing bases, playing short, switch-hitting
02/20/2012 10:00 AM ET
Billy Hamilton got bunting tips from Hall of Famer Joe Morgan last spring.
Billy Hamilton got bunting tips from Hall of Famer Joe Morgan last spring. (Bodhi Hill/MiLB.com)
Billy Hamilton didn't get a true offseason and it doesn't sound like he wanted one.

Hamilton, the Reds' second-round draftee in 2009 and second-ranked prospect entering 2012, went straight from stealing 103 bases at Class A Dayton (he became the first Minor Leaguer in a decade to reach triple digits) to playing Winter Ball in Puerto Rico (he speaks more Spanish than most Mississippians) to working out in Arizona (he arrived way too early for Spring Training).

Still, no break needed.

"I'm going ahead and getting started before everyone else gets here," Hamilton, 21, said. "Like a little jump-start to get going."



Late last week, MiLB.com caught up with Cincinnati's speedy Minor League Player of the Year. Here's more of what he had to say.

MiLB.com: What's been the focus of your training regimen?

Hamilton: The most important thing is being in shape before I get my baseball stuff together. Last season, I realized I had to get some more strength, so I pushed the weights hard this offseason to get a little stronger, faster.

MiLB.com: How much weight have you added to your 160-pound frame?

Hamilton: I gained three or four pounds, but I'm the type of person -- I can eat anything and somehow I don't gain weight; I don't see how, because I eat so much. I'm working hard, trying to get bigger.

MiLB.com: Have you had a chance to evaluate your 2011 campaign?

Hamilton: I look at the stats every now and again. Could be better, going to be better. I got to get better, and that's why I want to come out here and work even more.

MiLB.com: The stolen base total stands out. How'd you rack up so many?

Hamilton: My main goal was to double what I had [in 2010]. I had 48, so I knew I needed 90-something. When I saw I was getting close to 100, I was like, "Man, I'm so close."

MiLB.com: How did you become so prolific on the basepaths?

Hamilton: In high school, I didn't really steal too many bases. When I got into pro ball, my coaches -- like De[lino] DeShields and Joe Morgan -- were helping me out when I first got here. So I was like "I'm going to be a base-stealer." Delino was my manager [at Billings in 2010]. He really helped me out stealing bases. It kind of shocked me a little bit in my first season [in 2009] because I had 14 in [43 games] and then, my second year, I got a little better, and then last year, I played for him again, so I kept getting better.

MiLB.com: What was DeShields' best piece of base-stealing advice?

Hamilton: He taught me that it's about confidence. He said, "Most guys get thrown out a few times and then don't try to run for a long time. You have to have your confidence." If I get thrown out, I say, "Next time, I'm going again." You can't be scared.

MiLB.com: OK, confidence is key, but what's the real secret to not getting caught?

Hamilton: If you draw an imaginary line [in the dirt], you can get to that spot every time [you take a lead], so you don't have to think about getting back or not. You have to get to a point where you are thinking forward and not thinking backward, and then it's pretty easy stealing bases [because] you're not worried about getting back. If you make a false step and you're able to get back, you know you're good, so the only thing you think about is going forward.

MiLB.com: You mentioned longtime Red Joe Morgan, who had five 50-steal seasons in the Majors. When did you meet him?

Hamilton: I met him in Spring Training [in 2011]. He was at the big league camp and was here to talk about stealing bases. He came over to talk to me for a little bit and he talked to me about stealing bases, but he also talked to me about how to bunt, and so I learned more from him about bunting.

MiLB.com: What was that experience like, talking ball with a Hall of Famer?

Hamilton: It was amazing. Someone said we're going to bring Joe Morgan over here to help you with some stuff, and I was just like shocked when he came over. He went straight into bunting and worked with me every day during Spring Training. He did the big league side first, but then he came over and made time for me every day. It was a big part of my success last season.

MiLB.com: Morgan played second base, your position before you moved to shortstop in 2011. Who's your mentor defensively?

Hamilton: I played against Alex Cora [in Puerto Rico] and he helped me out a little bit. Every game, we talked. He taught me how to not be so fast with everything, know your runners and slow everything down. This season, I rushed everything and made a bunch of errors. I told him that I had a few errors and it was mainly rushing the ball, and he just told me how he did it and showed me some drills.

MiLB.com: Despite the 39 errors at short for Dayton, do you see yourself playing the position long-term?

Hamilton: It doesn't matter. Last year, I got messed up rushing, but I still think I'm a shortstop. Things happen, so you never know; whatever the organization needs. I'm here to play, as long as I get to play baseball.

MiLB.com: Running, check. Defense, check. How's your hitting coming along?

Hamilton: In high school, all I did was hit right-handed, but when I got to pro ball, I started switch-hitting. Now I got to come in and work on left-handed and right-handed. I think I'm coming along pretty good.

MiLB.com: What's been the greatest challenge of switch-hitting so far?

Hamilton: Frustration. When you're right-handed, you think you should just bat right-handed all the time. When I got in a slump left-handed, I'd think I want to go back to only right-handed. It's been hard work, coming out early. It ain't easy.

MiLB.com: So it's like working on two different swings?

Hamilton: Some [batters] have the same stance right-handed and left-handed, but my right-handed stance is different from my left-handed stance, so actually I feel like I am working on two different swings. The left-handed one is just a natural stance for me, so I said I'm going to stick with it during the bad times and the good times.

MiLB.com: The next logical landing spot for you is Class A Advanced Bakersfield of the Cal League. Is that where you anticipate starting the 2012 season?

Hamilton: I guess it depends on how my spring goes. I'm going to bust my butt to try to get out of there, out of each level quick. So I'll get there, work hard and, hopefully, I won't be there too long.

Andrew Pentis is a contributor to MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @AndrewMiLB. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.
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