Billy Hamilton is the fastest player in Major League Baseball. At least, that was the case in early 2015 when he was measured at a top speed on the bases of 21.2 mph, eclipsing both Dee Gordon and Mike Trout by a smidge when clocked stealing bases. If you’re not convinced that base-stealing speed is the best measure of Billy’s overall top speed, perhaps a reminder of how much ground he covers in the outfield compared to his peers will decide for you.
Hamilton, a former high school football star in Mississippi who was once recruited by Mississippi State University, is well aware there's another speedster in Cincinnati these days now, too. With their 1st round pick in last week's NFL Draft, the Cincinnati Bengals selected wide receiver John Ross out of the University of Washington, and they did so on the heels of Ross running the 40-yard dash in an NFL Combine record 4.22 seconds.
As Hamilton told The Enquirer's C. Trent Rosecrans after collecting his 200th career stolen base, he'd be down for a 40-yard race against Ross to generate both buzz and some money for charity.
"I think we could do 40 and I think it'd be a good race for the city and for me and him to get our names out there," Hamilton said, noting he hasn’t run a timed 40-yard dash since ninth grade when he put up a 4.5-second 40. "It's something we could look forward to looking into, our agents (could talk) and see how it goes."
Handicapping that potential race brings out some eye-popping numbers.
Ross's 4.22 second 40 yard dash means he covered 120 feet in a track-style sprint at a rate of 28.44 feet per second, which is absurd in its own right. But if you circle back to when Billy was clocked at 21.2 mph on the bases in 2015, that translates to an even more absurd speed of 31.09 feet per second.
Do the math on that over 120 feet, and you get a 40-yard time we've never seen before.
This isn't a top-speed competition, though, and there's a lot more that goes into crossing the finish line 40 yards from the start than just top speed. For one, there's how you break, which is way different in track-style starts than from a shuffling lead off of 1B. Secondly, the surfaces on which each of those freaky-fast speeds were recorded were quite different, with Ross running on synthetic turf while Hamilton was running on the hard dirt of an infield.
In reality, how fast you run is certainly important, but how quickly you can climb to top speed makes just as much different over such a short race. That's the part we'd be getting a chance to watch play out.
The idea that either one of these speedsters could actually lose a race over that distance is hard to believe, but that's just the kind of intrigue that would make this idea, should it materialize, that much more fun to watch. Here's to hoping they find a way to make it happen.