How TA turned Hamilton from a runner to ‘Billy the hitter'


You are probably familiar with "Billy the runner."

Well, say hello to "Billy the hitter."

Billy Hamilton is one of baseball's all-time famed speedsters, a base-swiper extraordinaire with more than 300 stolen pillows in his major league career.

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So when he signed up with the White Sox during spring training, it figured that's how he would be deployed, as a situational speed threat who could make the difference as the team chased a championship in the game of inches.

Instead, Hamilton joined a new team and got a crash course in how to change his narrative.

"Just being around those guys every single day is bringing it out of me," Hamilton said Friday, as he made his return from a hamstring-related stay on the injured list. "Just to listen to those guys and how confident they are, a couple of guys that are down struggling a little bit, but you could never tell by their work ethic, their energy, their confidence. It’s like, 'OK, I didn’t have a good game here, wait till tomorrow, I’m going to bounce back.'

"Stuff like that can help a guy who is not known for being as a hitter, that I am."

Just being in the White Sox clubhouse has reframed how Hamilton thinks about himself as a baseball player. Steal bags with blazing speed? He knew he could do that. But he admitted that he was brought down by his reputation as a light hitter, as someone who contribute with his feet but not with his bat.

The results have not been all-world, by any measure, from an offensive standpoint. He joined the White Sox as a career .241 hitter with a career .621 OPS. It became somewhat of a self-fulfilling prophecy, one that he's found help erasing since coming to the South Side.

Who's helped him the most? Someone who has experience changing his own narrative. Someone who used to be a .240 hitter. Someone who knows plenty about confidence.

Someone named Tim Anderson.

"I’ve been around TA, and the stuff that he’s been giving me, it’s been unbelievable," Hamilton said. "He’s one of those guys that, ‘Hey, Billy, I don’t care what nobody says out there, you can hit.’ And by him telling me that every single day, that has been bringing me more confidence to actually not be afraid to hit with two strikes, draw a couple of walks, get on base and do what I’ve got to do.

"He’s been one of the main guys that every single day be like, ‘Let’s go, get your couple hits a game, and then you’re going to be good.’

"Going in there knowing what people think about you and stuff like that has been tough on me. I’ve always got it in my head. But every single day I come to the park and be around him, he’s like, ‘Listen, you’re a hitter. You can hit.’ In the past, it used to be run then hit. Now think about it as hit then run.

"I’m not Billy the runner. I’m trying to be Billy the hitter and then run. It’s been pretty cool being around him, man."

The results have been pretty good, too.

He's got three hits, two walks, two runs scored, an RBI and a couple of stolen bases in his 13 trips to the plate in six games. Back from injury, he's expected to be part of the mix as the White Sox continue to search for a way to fill the hole in left field created by Eloy Jiménez's injury.

If he ends up being a key piece of the puzzle — one that's more than just a pinch-runner — he'll have Anderson to thank.

"Being over here these few months has been incredible," Hamilton said. "You see what kind of person he is when you play against him. You know he’s a competitor, you know he’s going to bring it every single day.

"Him having the will to want to help me and want to help me be successful in the box — I know that I get down on myself a lot about this hitting situation. But since I’ve been over here, I felt like I’m just as good as a bunch of guys. Especially with hitting-wise, I feel like I’ve got a chance nowadays, and that’s what it’s all about, having the chance just out the box."

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