Hamilton ready to roam spacious Kauffman

New home boosts Gold Glove chances of Royals center fielder

February 24th, 2019

SURPRISE, Ariz. – The prevailing wisdom about speedy Royals center fielder is that now, playing in spacious Kauffman Stadium, he truly will be able to showcase his amazing skill set.

Unlike the cramped confines of Cincinnati’s Great American Ball Park, Kauffman Stadium will provide Hamilton the room to roam. Five-star catches, per Statcast, should pile up for him, even more than before.

Maybe now, Hamilton will finally grab that previously elusive goal: a Gold Glove.

Hamilton was a five-time Gold Glove finalist with the Reds, losing out the past three years to Atlanta’s Ender Inciarte. Former teammates and present teammates believe he could get one this season.

“I fully expect him to win a Gold Glove in Kansas City with all of that room there now,” Reds outfielder Scott Schebler told MLB.com last week. “At Great American Ball Park, he couldn’t fully blossom because the wall stopped him. I think that’s what hurt him in the Gold Glove race. I expect him to win a Gold Glove over there.”

New Royals reliever Drew Storen, who played last year with Hamilton in Cincinnati, also is a believer.

“Absolutely, he could get one at Kauffman,” Storen said Sunday. “He’s just so gifted. He’ll definitely be ‘gazelling’ around out there. It’s going to be fun to watch.”

Storen admires Hamilton beyond the blazing sprint speed, though.

“The thing with him is it is not just speed,” Storen said. “He just has tremendous reads. He just kind of glides to balls, and he always knows where he is. He isn’t crashing into fences.

“There are guys who have great speed as outfielders, but they may not be able to read the ball as well. They might be diving for balls that Billy doesn’t have to because he had a better read.”

That became evident Saturday in Hamilton’s first chance this spring. He chased down a ball in the right-center gap at Surprise Stadium, a ball that displayed a typical Arizona carry and might have been a double had any other center fielder been on the field. Hamilton caught it with seeming ease.

“And the thing that impressed me,” Royals manager Ned Yost said, “is how well he communicates with his other outfielders. He makes them better. He makes the whole outfield better.”

The Royals need Hamilton’s presence in center, especially after losing Lorenzo Cain to free-agency prior to last season.

“There was a definite drop-off,” general manager Dayton Moore said. “It was evident not having Lorenzo out there. Playing at Kauffman Stadium, you have to be able to defend.”

Hamilton certainly will do that. Getting a Gold Glove, however, will still be a formidable challenge with Jackie Bradley Jr., who won it last year, and Mike Trout around.

While Hamilton doesn’t obsess about the Gold Glove, he certainly wouldn’t mind winning one.

“I kind of feel I should have gotten a couple,” Hamilton said, smiling. “It’s not the most important thing, but it would look nice on the resume. You look around, you got Alex [Gordon] with six, Salvy [Perez] with five. It’s nice to go around the room and say, ‘Gold Glove here, Gold Glove there.’ It’s good for your reputation.

“But the main thing is just going out and helping your teammates and saving runs. I’m not begging [for a Gold Glove]. I’m trying to help my team win games every day, whatever I can do.”

And his teammates appreciate it.

Asked what it was like to have Hamilton patrolling center field, former Reds and present Royals right-hander Homer Bailey said, “Well, if there are two outs and the ball goes up in the air [toward center], you start walking for the dugout.”