Breaking through: Hamilton rocketed up Draft boards
BOSTON -- A couple of years ago, the thought of even playing competitive baseball -- let alone taking the field as a professional -- had never occurred to outfielder Nicholos Hamilton. Little did he know how quickly everything would change.
On Wednesday, the Red Sox selected Hamilton with the 321st overall pick (in the 11th round) of the MLB Draft. Hamilton's mother, who was keeping a close eye on the television at the time, gasped upon seeing the name of her son's school on the screen.
"I didn't believe her at first," Hamilton said. "Then I walked up to her and checked Twitter, MLB's Draft Tracker. Found my name. That's when we all just started cheering, laughing, crying realizing that this actually just happened."
A speedy multisport athlete out of Lockport High School in upstate New York, Hamilton had garnered scouting interest both because of his physical tools and his limited experience playing the game. Up until recently, though, the 17-year-old was only a faint blip on Major League Baseball's radar.
Then after showcasing his skills in MLB's Breakthrough Series last summer, the attention began to increase.
"That was a big turning point," Hamilton said. "That brought scouts just swooping in on my phone."
Founded in 2008, the Breakthrough Series is a multiday event designed to allow a diverse group of prep prospects the chance to play in front of big league scouts. Hamilton attended the session held last summer in Brooklyn, N.Y., which was a new site after the program expanded to four locations in 2014.
"He's a really athletic center fielder from the Buffalo area, and he's only been playing baseball for about two years," said director of amateur scouting Mike Rikard. "He can really, really run. As with all high school hitters, he's got a ways to go with the bat. He's extremely athletic and he has that special-type speed. We're pretty excited to see what we can do with him."
Hamilton engaged in drills and batting practice on the first day. The entire group then competed against itself on Day 2 during a doubleheader, during which Hamilton said he hit a triple and laid down a bunt.
"That was probably the best thing I ever experienced, just a bunch of top prospects going at each other," he said.
"I was pretty excited when we won our game, too. That was awesome."
Hamilton's two days at the Class A Brooklyn Cyclones' MCU Park left a lasting impression.
"They treated us great, like we were professional players," Hamilton said.
Hamilton, who played running back for Lockport's football team and also spent one season as a member of the track team's 4x100 meter relay squad, said he only began shifting his efforts toward baseball midway through his junior year.
Afterwards, Hamilton began crossing the border into Canada to play for the Great Lake Canadians in Southwestern Ontario. Some of the time he spent there included working with former Red Sox player and current scout Adam Stern.
Even entering the Draft with that connection, Hamilton still did not expect the Red Sox to pick him after multiple teams began calling him throughout Day 2.
Nearly everything about Hamilton's story is defined by speed -- his fleet feet, his quick learning and the fast rate at which he accelerated up Draft boards. But the joy Hamilton, his family, his friends and even the city of Lockport are now experiencing is unlikely to fade away any time soon.
"Getting drafted today definitely caught me off guard. I did not pick that up," Hamilton said.