Fast is one thing. Major League Baseball rosters are stocked with fast ballplayers. Billy Hamilton is something else. The Cincinnati Reds have the only Billy Hamilton.
The Reds' 23-year-old speedster put his jaw-dropping acceleration and velocity on display yet again by scoring a run from third base on a pop fly to very shallow right-center field. With his Reds visiting the St. Louis Cardinals on Wednesday afternoon, Hamilton singled to lead off the top of the fifth inning. He then promptly stole second base with teammate Brandon Phillips at the plate. When Phillips flied out to right field, Hamilton advanced to third. To that point, Hamilton seemed to be a base hit or even a deep fly out from the sort of manufactured run that has been built in the National League for decades.
Then things got weird. They got Billy Hamilton.
After Jay Bruce lifted a high pop fly behind the second baseman, Hamilton did something that few current players would have the audacity to even attempt. He tagged up. Cardinals second baseman Kolten Wong backtracked into right field but was called off by right fielder Jon Jay. With Jay moving toward the infield to make the play, he was in a far better position to make a throw home.
It didn't matter. Hamilton slid home safely to push the Reds' lead to 3-0.
"That's the first time I've seen that," Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina told Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com after the Reds' 4-0 win. "He's so fast. Every time he's on base he's going to be dangerous. … Any time you see a guy with that kind of speed, he can change the game."
That run was the most jaw-dropping highlight of an outing that illustrated how much Hamilton can impact a game. In addition to the adventures that followed that at-bat in the fifth frame, Hamilton tripled, walked, singled again, scored another run and stole another base.
Playing for the Double-A Pensacola Blue Wahoos in 2012, Hamilton stole a Minor League-record 155 bases, topping the previous Minor League record set by Vince Coleman in 1983 by 10.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misidentified the St. Louis Cardinals' second baseman as Curtis Wong.