Four times at bat and four strike outs. That was Billy Hamilton‘s first opening day and first day as the regular center fielder in Cincinnati. How many times did your jaw drop, or how many times did you kick the floor after each one? Unbelievable you might say. Did everyone overestimate Billy Blaze’s ability to get on base?
Now that you’ve come back from the depths of that first paragraph, let’s look at it through objectivity. The man on the mound was one Adam Wainwright. Yeah, the 2-time NL Cy Young runner up Adam Wainwright with the devastating curveball. Now I don’t know about you but first opening day, first time taking over in center, and the first time with the front office putting all the city’s hopes and dreams on Billy’s back… Well that’s a tad bit of pressure. Add on facing the biggest rivalry in St. Louis with their ace on the mound, I can’t imagine the jitters going on through Billy Ball’s brain.
Everyone wants to say, “He’s not ready”, “He needs more time in AAA”, or “Let’s put in Chris Heisey” — Well that’s one way to look at it. Let me give you a little perspective. Last September, Flash Hamilton came up and in 19 AB’s lit the world on fire with a .368/.429/.474 split and 13 steals in 14 attempts. The entire landscape of baseball hadn’t seen anything like him since the Rickey Henderson and Vince Coleman 80’s. This was after his AAA season in which he kind of had an initial adjustment period, but after a month of struggling, finished his 2013 campaign at .256/.308/.343 with 75 steals. This lone season in Louisville followed his stellar 2012 where he set the single season professional baseball record with 155 steals on a .311/.410/.420 slash line over 2 stops in Bakersfield and Pensacola.
So where does all this lead to in 2014 for the Cincinnati Reds?
Billy Hamilton’s first day and Cy Young contender is out of the way. He’s on the big league club still. He didn’t get benched and didn’t get demoted. St. Louis has 2nd year pitcher in Michael Wacha on the mound. While Wacha-Wacha-Wacha is no walk in the park to face, he’s not in Wainwright’s league and will be the perfect pitcher for Billy’s 2014 relaunch.
Look for a relaxed Billy to go 2/4 with 3 steals. It’s his time. It’s his time to shine.
Take a deep breath, Reds Nation.
It’s Billy Primetime.