For minor league baseball, the biggest story of the year involving arguably their most exciting player is Pensacola Wahoos' shortstop Billy Hamilton and his pursuit of the single season record for most stolen bases.
But this story isn't just important in the minor leagues, this is something that all of baseball is keeping an eye on.
Since day one of his professional baseball career, Hamilton has caused havoc on the bases, stealing at a rate that we haven't seen since the speedsters of the 1980's like Otis Nixon, Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson, and the last player to steal 100 bases in a major league season, Vince Coleman. It's the latter's record of 145 that Hamilton needs to exceed in order to place him in the record books.
As of August 18, Hamilton is only four stolen bases away from breaking the record, with seventeen games remaining, as his progress is being tracked daily. One of the things that stands out on the list of the top base-stealers is the time period in which those players set their marks.
Baseball is witnessing something that hasn't been seen in 29 years. Hamilton is literally a once-in-a-generation talent and proves it every game.
Nobody in baseball today is doing what Hamilton does. Only three minor leaguers since 1985 have stolen 100 bases in a year, including Hamilton, and no major leaguer has stolen more than 80 bases in a season since 1988.
It's not just what he puts on the stat sheet that should be recognized, it's what his coaches and managers are saying about the young 21-year-old.
His former manager, Ken Griffey Sr. said, via Albert Chen of si.com, "I've seen all the great ones who could change the game with their speed. But Billy—it's true, he's a little bit different."
Former major league player and base-stealing expert Delino DeShields feels that Hamilton could be the fastest player in the history of the game.
With the building of smaller ballparks and the home run boom of the late 1990's and early 2000's, the strategy of base-stealing diminished rapidly since managers could rely on their power hitters to send runners home by sending the ball over the fence. But Hamilton has changed that with his faster-than-a-bullet speed that he portrayed on a national stage at the 2012 Futures Game.
The future looks bright for one of the Reds' top prospects as fans wait anxiously to make his major league debut, whether it's later this year as a potential pinch runner/hitter or in a couple of years after he plays in Triple-A.
For now, the baseball world needs to embrace and cherish Hamilton when he breaks the stolen base record since we may never see another player like him again. This is a record that will last for a long time because, well, he's the best in the world at what he does and nobody is even close.