KANSAS CITY–Since it's an all-star game, there aren't really any scouting reports for World or U.S. players to pore over before the Futures Game. You go out, you play your game and you have some fun. If you're a pitcher, you don't really worry about whether a hitter is vulnerable to a slider outside. If you're a hitter, you are best off just assuming that everyone you face can really bring it.
But that doesn't apply to facing Billy Hamilton. The Reds shortstop will bat lead off for the U.S. team, and it's not really possible for a player with 104 steals at the all-star break to not be noticed. And you don't need an advance scout to know that if Hamilton gets on base, he'll likely be stealing second.
Braves catcher Christian Bethancourt will be behind the plate if Hamilton gets on. He said that he and the World team pitchers talked about that possibility when they arrived in Kansas City on Saturday. If anyone has a chance to catch Hamilton, Bethancourt may be the guy to look to. He has one of the strongest arms in pro ball and consistently turns in 1.75-1.8 second pop times from home to second. His best time in a workout is a Pudge Rodriguez-like 1.65, but even he knows that Hamilton will be tough to catch.
"When you have a guy with 100 and something stolen bases, as a catcher he's pretty hard to get. You hope to make a good throw and hope to get him," Bethancourt said. "We were talking about what do we do if he gets on base. Well, throw as hard as you can and I'll throw it as quick as I can to second base. You have to be real quick to get him."
There have been pitchers in the California League who can't get Hamilton out of his head.
"A guy with the Rockies threw over eight times before he threw a pitch. On the next pitch, I stole second," Hamilton said. "I'm seeing a lot more balks now. In the last two weeks I've seen four balks."
For his part, Hamilton is excited to see that stolen bases are once again being talked about–the game hasn't seen many great basestealers in the three-run home run era of the past 20 years.
"We're bringing stolen bases back. Me and a few more guys in the Cal League, we're bringing a part of the game back," Hamilton said.
Hamilton has gotten the word that he's headed to the East Coast after the Futures Game. He's been promoted to Double-A Pensacola where his quest to top the pro record of 145 steals will continue. Thanks to the three games he'll miss because of the Futures Game, Hamilton's pace has dropped to 163 steals for the season, still enough to easily break Vince Coleman's record.