Every time I watch a baseball game I always have the same question: What is that thing on the hitter's thumbs? After being told, "I don't know" and, "Move your face off the screen" for the hundredth time, I took it upon myself to investigate.
As you watch some of your favorite hitters, check out their thumb on the hand closest to the end of the bat. Some of them are sporting a little tab of plastic that sits between the bat and the space between the thumb and the rest of your fingers.
Prepare for an eye-opening look into the world of batting aids. Well, it's been in plain sight, but if you haven't been looking I guess it may be eye-opening.
It's called the PROHITTER, and several baseball players have taken to using it while at the plate. It was patented in 2001, and since has started popping up in big leaguer's hands everywhere.
Go to the website and you'll see that it's endorsed by former Simpsons guest-star and current Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim manager, Mike Scioscia. Though he may be no Danny Glover in Angels in the Outfield, Mr. Scioscia is a very competent manager and former ballplayer who clearly recommends the PROHITTER.
In the words of Sosh: "PROHITTER is the amazing grip-technique-facilitator and bat-sting eliminator, which many of today‘s brightest baseball superstars take with them to the plate to hit their very best. PROHITTER is in play and ready, whenever you are, to advance your game to the next level and beyond!"
Sounds like something worth using.
At this point I would like to point out that in no way, shape, or form, am I associated with the PROHITTER. I'm just a guy who stares at batters' hands and wondered what the little piece of plastic sticking off their gloves was.
The PROHITTER's benefits are listed on it's webiste:
-Quicker hands, wrists, and increased bat-speed and power.
-Hitting for a higher batting average, with more pop and consistency.
-Professional players are using it for the advanced grip technique.
-It provides the best batting sting reduction.
-More than 45 percent of the best hitters are using it.
Those are some impressive boasts for such a small thing. There's even a demo showing how to use it properly.
I know what you're thinking, "Geoff, please tell me I can call in the next half-hour and you'll throw in a cheese-grater for only $19.95!"
Nope, sorry. I gave up infomercials after being cast as "Guy With Legwarmers No. 2" in an aeorobics DVD.
Let's face it though, if this thing does half of what it says it can do, why isn't every player in the league using it?
Have you ever been stupid enough, or drunk enough, to step into the 90 MPH batting cage at your local minigolf course? If you make contact with one of those heaters, it hurts. It's like swinging a sledgehammer against a rock. If I toss a PROHITTER on, will that pain turn into pillows?
Vernon Wells, Marco Scutaro, and Rod Barajas were among the users for the Jays.
Yankees Mark Teixeira and Eric Hinske were also using it. Hinske even homered a Ricky Romero pitch off the foul pole while wearing a PROHITTER.
Notable non-users on the Jays were Scott Rolen, Aaron Hill, Alex Rios, and Kevin Millar.
Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter and pretty much everyone else who I haven't mentioned were also not using it.
At first I thought the decision to use a PROHITTER was more of a generational choice between batters. Now I think it may be a stylistic decision, and one that relies more on the techniques used by batters.
Watching Marco Scutaro and Vernon Wells, you see a more compact swing. They are letting the ball travel further and then trying to quickly catch it as it comes near. A PROHITTER claims to benefit this type of style.
Guys like Aaron Hill and Alex Rios seem to take swings that are longer and see the hitter's arms extended further through the strikezone. Maybe they don't need any help because they're gearing up for pitchers earlier in the ball's flight. Having more range with their swing means they can start their swing early and still reach pitches.
Rios and Scott Rolen are both tall players with long arms, and their swings reflect that. Aaron Hill uses a large bat that extends his reach beyond normal range for someone his size. Chances are they already have a firm grip on the bat and don't require anything like a PROHITTER. They use their size and strength to muscle the ball when they reach it.
Meanwhile, Wells and Scutaro are smaller players who use hand speed to generate power. Having something to propel their hands faster towards the ball means getting more power. That could be one of the reasons for their use of the PROHITTER.
Maybe the reason lies in training techniques. A hitter has a whole offseason to adopt new techniques from professional coaches they hire. Some of those coaches may be extolling the virtues of the PROHITTER. Others might just rely more on traditional equipment and techniques.
Of course, this is all speculation; but it's something to think about. Next time you're watching an at-bat, check out the batter's thumbs and see if there's something different there.
Because it looks like major leaguers are giving themselves a hand in the batter's box.