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Hamilton steals show as Reds Caravan rolls on

Outfielder, leadoff hitter entertains fans during question and answer session

HAMILTON, Ohio -- Everybody knows that Reds center fielder Billy Hamilton knows a few things about stealing a base or five. From the very first query during a Reds Caravan question and answer session on Saturday afternoon, it was clear that Hamilton was going to steal the show in of all cities, Hamilton.

"Do you have a girlfriend?" one young fan asked in the audience at Miami University-Hamilton. Hamilton's reply was that he did not.

A few minutes later, a little girl asked for the microphone to ask Hamilton another question.

"Are you faster than a car?" was her question.

"If it's in park, then yes I am," Hamilton replied, getting laughs.

Someone else asked Hamilton if he had ever stolen home.

"I have not. The guys [batting] behind me might get mad if I steal their RBI," said Hamilton, who holds the professional record with 155 steals in the Minors in 2012.

It's no surprise that fans are interested in Hamilton, who has been the most discussed young player during the offseason. The rookie, who played 13 games in the Majors as a September callup, is slated to take over as Cincinnati's leadoff hitter and center fielder in 2014 after Shin-Soo Choo departed as a free agent.

"It's been fun," Hamilton said about this week's caravan trip. "With this weather, I really thought there would be less people than there has been. But we've had a good time and have seen a lot of people. It's been interesting and fun."

The Northern leg of the Reds Caravan -- which featured Hamilton, former player and current broadcaster Jeff Brantley, pitching great Tom Browning, Reds Minor League hitter of the year Jesse Winker, broadcaster Jim Kelch and front office executive Dick Williams -- saw poor weather throughout their tour.

The Parrish Auditorium wasn't quite filled to capacity, but it was close. Saturday morning brought four inches of snow to the area and gusty winds had snow blowing and temperatures well below freezing.

For a Friday radio station stop in Celina, Ohio, it was below zero outside. On Saturday morning, a Reds Community Fund stop at Class A Dayton's Fifth Third Field had to be canceled because of the snow. On the drive from the visit at the National U.S. Air Force Museum to Hamilton, winds had the bus rocking side-to-side as it moved down Interstate 75 South.

None of it dampened the enthusiasm for the Reds Caravan visits, however.

"We've had a ton of people. I was really surprised the way the weather has been and the snow," Brantley said. "It's different than where I'm from [in Mississippi] but still, the weather is bad. There have been a lot of Reds fans, a lot of questions and this is always a tremendous turnout. When you see weather like this instead of sunshine, you'd think there wouldn't be a good turnout. It's been slammed everywhere we've been. You've got families. You've got fans. Everybody is out. Everybody is excited."

Winker, who played for Dayton in 2013, was a familiar face to fans in and around Dayton. Some even came up to ask him about the high ankle sprain he sustained at the end of last season. He is now feeling 100 percent.

"What an honor to be a part of it," Winker said of the caravan, his first. "It's been great time going to every city and seeing the fans and hearing all of their support. I'm having a great time. I'm really enjoying it."

The fourth and final day of Reds Caravan concludes Sunday in Cincinnati at Great American Ball Park. At noon ET, all four caravan tours will converge for the season ticket "Select-a-Seat" event. For more details, visit the Reds Caravan page.

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for Read his blog, Mark My Word, and follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon.
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