A Billy Hamilton fan somewhere lost a bet Tuesday night. Surely, for the man who's speedy legs got him to the major leagues, it was more likely that he would hit an inside-the-park home run for his first big-league four-bagger, right? Not so fast.
Hamilton put a charge into a 92-mph fastball by Jeff Samardzija and cleared the fence in right by seven rows at Great American Ball Park for a solo homer that tied the score in the fifth inning. Hamilton briskly trotted around the bases in a shade under 18 seconds. An inning later, Chris Heisey hit another home run to give the Cincinnati Reds a one-run lead, and they went on to beat the Chicago Cubs 3-2.
The man of the night was Hamilton, who reached base four times, stole a base and made a diving catch in center field. Just before Hamilton connects for his homer, Reds broadcaster Thom Brennaman can be heard in the video talking about him legging out an infield single and getting caught stealing earlier in the game. After stealing 395 bases in 502 career games in the minors, Hamilton has added 23 stolen bases in 38 career games in the majors. That's his game. And now he's got a home run — which is not usually his game.
''It's a good feeling for me,'' Hamilton said. ''That's not what I want to do, but sometimes, it happens.''
It happens, or something that rhymes with "it happens" often plagues the Cubs. The look on Samardzija's face after Hamilton goes deep is priceless — but it also could kill.
Samardzija was mad at himself for putting a pitch in a bad spot, but also complimentary of Hamilton for taking advantage after a rain delay, one of three on the night. Hamilton definitely took note of how far he hit it.
"It wasn't one of those wall-scrapers," Hamilton said.
Reds manager Bryan Price said he didn't want Hamilton to get carried away. He had 13 homers in the minors (some of which were inside the parkers) and one in spring training, which was not.
"It's nice to know the power is there. The power can be seductive too at times," Price said. "The thing is, I've never seen Billy try to hit the ball out of the ballpark and give away at-bats trying to get the ball into the air. He's been very cognizant of really trying to stay on top of the ball and trying to shoot line drives and hard ground balls through the infield."
Seductive, the power of the home run is. But speed always will be Hamilton's game. Except for those occasions when it's not, when Hamilton makes the ball go fast instead, and over the fence.
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