During the broadcast of Shohei Ohtani’s MLB pitching debut today on MLB Network, it was noted that only three players in big league history have produced both a 10-win season and a 10-home run season at some point in their career. Ohtani, whom the Los Angeles Angels plan to use as both a DH and a starting pitcher, did it in the same season twice in Japan. The great Babe Ruth did both in 1918, when he was with the Boston Red Sox, going 13-7 on the mound and hitting 11 homers, the first of 17 straight double-digit homer seasons. Rick Ankiel, who broke in as a pitcher and converted to the outfield, did it during his career (1999-2013) but not in the same season. The only other player to achieve this impressive feat was Jackson native Ewell Albert “Reb” Russell, who played in the early 1900s. Russell, a left-hander, won 23 games as a rookie for the Chicago White Sox in 1913 and posted three other double-digit win seasons before hurting his arm in 1918. He spent some time in the minors, came back to the big leagues in 1922 with Pittsburgh and belted 12 homers in 60 games. He hit nine more the next year in what was his final fling in the majors.
MLB Network’s list of the top 10 center fielders in the game does not include Billy Hamilton. Rest assured, there are any number of teams that would love to have the Collins native and ex-Taylorsville High star – but he has work to do to crack the list of elite center fielders. Hamilton, in his first full MLB season with Cincinnati, stole 56 bases, scored 72 runs, drove in 49, hit six homers and legged out eight triples in 152 games. In the field, he made just two errors while registering 342 putouts and 10 assists. But Hamilton batted just .250, put up a sub-par .292 on-base percentage and drew just 34 walks while fanning 117 times. The apparent leader in the National League rookie of the year race much of the season, he scuffled late and wound up second to New York pitcher Jacob deGrom. For sure, Hamilton’s speed is off the charts. If he can get on base more in 2015, he just might climb into that top 10 chart heading into 2016. P.S. Connor Barron’s stock may be rising, which is good news for Southern Miss fans. The former Sumrall High star, a third-round MLB draft pick in 2011 who went undrafted last summer, has been rated the No. 8 senior in the country by Perfect Game. Barron was the Texas Collegiate League player of the year last summer after batting .344. The former shortstop, now playing center field for the Golden Eagles, hit .246 (.316 in C-USA play) with four homers and 20 RBIs as a junior. … Also on the rise is Greer Holston, a right-hander at St. Stanislaus High. The 6-foot-4, 210-pound junior reportedly made a big impression on scouts at last weekend’s Under Armour Preseason All-America Tournament in Arizona.