[Received one more caravan report from Tom Meade who attended the event in Hamilton, OH. Read his thoughts about Billy Hamilton, what Tom Browning had to say about his perfect game, and a front office view of the prospects for signing Homer Bailey to a long-term extension.]
The swirling snow and gusting winds on Saturday afternoon did not seem to affect turn out. About 250 people attended the event at Miami-Hamilton’s Parrish Auditorium. For a caravan leg with a just a rookie (Billy Hamilton) and a minor leaguer (Jesse Winkler) in their group, the event still did not suffer for lack of enthusiasm. Much of that probably had to do with Hamilton’s presence – it’s interesting that this leg may also boast two-thirds of the Red’s 2016 starting OF when all is said and done. Also on the leg were Tom Browning, still sporting his thick goatee, Jeff Brantley, Jim Kelch, and Vice President of Baseball Operations, Dick Williams (read: Walt’s second in command).
During Q&As, a youngster asked Billy the Kid if he’d ever stolen home plate. Surprisingly he hasn’t. Billy said his goal is simply to get into scoring position for his teammates to knock him in (second and third if possible). He also joked that his teammates would probably be angry if he ‘stole’ their RBI too. In all his questions Billy was nothing if not polite and was as soft spoken as ever. He still sounds so young for his age (which at 24 is also young). It was nice to see that his wit was as quick as his feet as he answered the bulk of the questions.
Other questions ranged from the Cowboy’s Ice Cream scoop record (8 served in a large malt cup) to Tom Browning’s advice getting to the Majors and staying focused while pitching perfection. On that subject, Mr. Perfect mentioned two items that were new to me. He talked about the dugout in Riverfront. It angled directly to the giant scoreboard which made it impossible to ignore the pitching stats between innings and just added to the pressure. He also said he was more motivated than usual to close it out because the Dodgers were his opposition. This comment drew hearty applause from the adults in the crowd. It’s too bad that many of the kids there will never understand that historic rivalry let alone what Browning may have meant by that remark.
It was also nice to see a top minor league prospect, Jesse Winkler, in attendance. His presence, beside Billy on the dias, speaks volumes for what the organization thinks of his future. He was quiet and understandably the minor leaguer projected to start the season in AA didn’t get a lot of questions.
The biggest news from the event came from perhaps the groups least recognizable guest, Williams director of baseball operations. When asked about the prospect of extending Homer he joked about being the only one to get a tough question, then surprisingly he responded directly and with detail. He said that they were very optimistic about extending Homer and that serious discussions were ongoing. He stated that both sides wanted an extension and that Bryan Price’s promotion increased Homer’s interest because he is very close to the Reds manager. He said that relationship will help (it will probably help the prospects of extending Latos and other pitchers too for that matter). Based on Mr. Williams strong remarks and it seems like this extension is closer to reality than most fans may have guessed!