Thursday, February 28, 2013

Meet A Prospect : Travis Hafner

Travis Lee Hafner, or more commonly known as Pronk, was born on June 3rd, 1977 in Jamestown, North Dakota where he attended Sykeston High School in Sykeston North Dakota. Pronk would spend his college career at the Cowley County Community College in Arkansas City, Kansas. Travis Hafner's High School did not have a baseball program for Pronk to wreak havoc on but Travis did find time to be valedictorian of his high school class which included 12 graduating Seniors. Standing large with a 6'3" and 240 lb frame, they call that country strong by the way, from the left side the plate he was drafted by the Texas Rangers in the 31st round of the 1996 MLB First Year Players Draft. The nickname Pronk was given to him by former teammate Bill Selby because he referred to Travis as "The Project" and at other times as "the Donkey" because of the way he looked running the bases and Pronk just kind of stuck. Let's meet the all time career home run hitter for a MLB player born in North Dakota.

Travis would not make his professional debut until the 1997 season with the Gulf Coast Rangers team but was limited to only 55 games. He would spend both the 1998 and 1999 seasons with the Savannah affiliate of the Texas Rangers in A ball where he tore the cover off the ball putting up a combined 44 home runs for the Savannah team in two seasons. Travis would spend a year in each of the Rangers A+, AA, and AAA affiliates the next three seasons of 2000, 2001, and 2002 before being called up to the majors on August 6th of the 2002 season. All told in six seasons in the Texas Rangers minor league system Pronk would hit 112 home runs, drive in 479 RBI's, and averaged a triple slash of .298/.403/.514 with a staggering .917 OPS. Travis would hit his first career Major League home run on August 22nd but that was not all because he made a day of it. Not only did Travis hit the home run but he also had two doubles and a single in five at bats and would have had a cycle had he not been thrown out at third base on one of the doubles.

Travis Hafner would be traded to the Cleveland Indians in the off season before the 2003 season along with Aaron Myette for catcher Einar Diaz and right handed pitcher Ryan Drese. Travis would be an instant hit in Cleveland while playing 91 games in his first season for them splitting time between first base and designated hitter. He would finish the season with a .254/.327/.485 triple slash with 14 home runs and 40 RBI's while hitting for the cycle on August 14th of that year against the Minnesota Twins. That would be the first cycle for the tribe since 1978 when Andre Thornton did it for the Indians. Hafner would spend the next nine seasons with the Cleveland Indians and enjoyed his fair share of ups and downs. In the next three seasons Hanfer would garner MVP votes finishing 24th in 2004, 5th in 2005, and 8th in 2006. In 10 seasons as a Cleveland Indian Travis would put up a triple slash of .278/.382/.509 with an OPS of .890 while hitting 200 home runs and driving in 688 RBI's. Travis had a 22.7 WAR in his time in Cleveland and even spent time on the 2007 Indians team that eventually lost to the World Series Champion Boston Red Sox in that year's ALCS after defeating the Yankees in four games in the ALDS, see Joba Chamberlain and the midges. Hafner also hit a single season record tying six grand slams in one season tying former Yankee and curent Los Angeles Dodgers skipper Don Mattingly's record. He also set the Indians single season record for most home runs and RBI's in a season by a DH hitting 39 homers and driving in 110 RBI's passing Andre Thornton's 1982 totals.

The problem that Travis Hafner has been facing since the 2008 season is being able to stay healthy and stay on the field to be productive. Hafner missed most of the 2008 season, only appearing in 57 games, due to various injuries and multiple disabled list trips. 2009 seemed like much of the same although Hafner was able to get into 94 games that season. 2010 saw more injuries and more trips to the DL as Hafner was only able to appear in 118 games that season due to nagging injuries. Hafner would be held under 100 games again in 2011 only playing in 94 games due to injuries. Hafner would become only the 12th player in Cleveland Indians history to start 10 different Opening Day's for the team in 2012 and would only play in 65 other games that season as injuries once again limited Hafner on the field. The Indians had seen enough and declined his option making him a free agent this off season.

January 31st of 2012 Travis Hafner agreed in principal to a one year deal with the New York Yankees worth $2 million plus an additional $2 million is easily achieved incentives. Pronk will be the Yankees primary designated hitter and that left handed swing is just made for the new Yankees Stadium so if he can stay healthy expect huge results from Hafner in 2013. In November of 2006 Travis married Amy Beekman and the couple now have two sons, Blake Lee and Trip John, and Amy and Travis have been added to the Wives and Girlfriends section of the site so go check that out and Travis playing for the Yankees all season long. Go Pronk!

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Sorry for the Capatcha... Blame the Russians :)