DENVER — Before Garrett Hampson’s first game hitting in the leadoff spot this season April 7, his mother sent him a text telling him to be aggressive.
He took it to heart. That night, he stole three bases, a career high.
“She's always texting me good luck,” Hampson said about his mother, who watches most games from Reno, Nevada. “Maybe a little more now that she’s famous.”
The Rockies have kept him in that spot for all but one game since then. He’s lead off nine times already this year, compared to 12 times for the entire 2020 season.
It’s the spot he grew up in, and one that he said he’s the most confident in. It also gives him a chance to show off his signature speed. His base-running speed is 29.5 feet per second, the fifth fastest in the league according to statcast.
Hampson is definitely the fastest at short distances on the team, but when it comes to slightly longer distances, Hampson said Trevor Story and Sam Hilliard are tough competitors.
"Story and I have raced before,” he said. “He got me once. I got him once. We may have to settle it with a third race."
Hitting first also gives Hampson a chance to steal more bases, a craft he perfected while working his way through the Rockies farm system. Coaches didn’t hold him back, giving him the green light to steal whenever he wanted.
He got thrown out, but that was an important part of the learning process. If he was going to make mistakes, managers wanted them to be aggressive mistakes. Hampson said he had the same mindset during spring training this year.
Hampson has four stolen bases this season, tied for the most in the National League as of Sunday. The Rockies were off Monday before hosting Houston on Tuesday.
He aspires to be like Billy Hamilton, a center fielder for the Chicago White Sox. Hamilton has stolen over 50 bases in a season four times, and he holds the single-season minor league record for stolen bases with 155.
“I think he's probably the best just by how aggressive he is with this lead, you can tell that he's not scared out there,” Hampson said. “That's a big thing.”
At the plate, while most of the team has had a hard time stringing together consistent at-bats, Hampson has had some success. He has 13 hits and seven RBIs through the first 16 games.
“I feel good,” he said. “Just trying to stick to what I do and try to get on base. That’s all I’m trying to do, to help the team win.”