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Hamilton becomes youngest Red to steal 50 bases

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CINCINNATI -- Reds center fielder Billy Hamilton added another remarkable feat to an already impressive rookie campaign.

In the fourth inning of Wednesday's 7-5 win over the Cubs, the speedster stole his 50th base of the season, swiping third with two outs and later scoring on a single by Brandon Phillips.

At 23 years old, Hamilton is the youngest player in Reds history, and ninth overall, to steal 50 or more bases in a season, joining Bob Bescher (1909-12), Dode Paskert (1910), Bobby Tolan (1970), Joe Morgan (1972-76), Dave Collins (1980), Eric Davis (1986-87), Barry Larkin (1995) and Deion Sanders (1997). Tolan and Davis (in '86) were 24 when they stole 50.

"It feels great. That's just what I like to do is steal bases, and I got a chance tonight," Hamilton said. "I knew I had 49, but not knowing what comes behind the 50 steals. So it was pretty good to get."

Hamilton said he's become a better baserunner since getting to the big leagues, even though he leads the Majors in number of times caught stealing (19) and set a Minor League record by stealing 155 bases between Class A Advanced Bakersfield and Double-A Pensacola in 2012.

"I got caught last year less in the Minor Leagues, but that was more off of just going and not knowing the situation, not really caring who was batting or what the situation was," Hamilton said. "It was just running. ... It's mainly about learning the situation now."

"It's certainly a bonus for us," Reds manager Bryan Price said of what Hamilton has brought to the club with his speed. "We didn't have a ton of team speed last year. This is an added dimension to our offense. It's extremely exciting."

Hamilton is four stolen bases away from equaling the franchise's rookie record of 54, set by Bescher in 1909. The all-time single-season franchise record is 81, also set by Bescher in 1911.

But while Hamilton used to set a goal for how many bases he wanted to steal in a given season, that's no longer the case.

"After I got to the big leagues, I stopped doing that," he said. "Usually my goal was: every level in the Minor Leagues I wanted to double what I had the following season. When I got to last year, I stopped that; I just wanted to come here, learn and get better and see what happens."

Continuing to build a strong candidacy to earn the National League Rookie of the Year Award, Hamilton entered Wednesday's contest leading all NL rookies in RBIs (44), multi-hit games (34), runs (66), hits (126), total bases (182), doubles (24), triples (7), stolen bases and extra-base hits (37). He was also leading all NL center fielders with eight outfield assists.

Price sees big things in Hamilton's future.

"I'm excited, obviously, that he's gotten to this level," Price said. "He's only going to get better."

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Mark My Word, and follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon. Manny Randhawa is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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