Return of Pronk: Travis Hafner Swings His Way Back to the Tribe

Nino CollaSenior Writer ISeptember 10, 2008

Boy that felt good to watch.

With two swings of the bat, Travis Hafner returned.

An opposite-field single off a change-up on the outer part of the plate was the first hit. Then a yanked liner into right-center field and the man they call "Pronk" could finally breathe easy.

Granted, it wasn't the flashiest thing in the world, but it's Travis Hafner. After months of waiting and weeks of rehabbing in Buffalo and Akron, he finally got to this point.

He won't play everyday and he probably won't show the "Pronk" of old just yet, but if I can go out of the box of a journalist sentence for a minute. DAMN it feels good to see him back.

I went and saw him last Saturday in Akron and literally sat feet away from him taking practice swings as Matt LaPorta batted against a division foe, Bowie.

He looked comfortable, swinging free and easy, going the opposite way and just being the Hafner we know and love. He wasn't swinging at those ridiculous pitches or turning over on balls for weak grounders.

I just wanted to see a healthy Pronk; I didn't expect a locked in one.

Not only has the time off helped his shoulder out, and an offseason of rest should do wonders, but the break has put him back to basics. Not being able to swing the bat looks like it has reduced Hafner to the fundamentals of swinging.

He's just a regular old Pronk, doing his work, like we are used to.

Not that Travis Hafner we saw this year in the early part of the season. That was simply a shadow of the Hafner we used to know. He wasn't the strong ox like heavy swinger at the plate he was in the past.

We didn't know the Hafner that we saw in 2008; it simply was not the same.

Granted, he finished with a walk, two hits, and a strikeout, it wasn’t amazing. But, given the way he was swinging the bat before he went on the disabled list, this is a huge step.

One of the favorite things of Matt Underwood and Tom Hamilton to say is that "Pronk is lurking" as he paces around the on-deck circle, scouting out his next victim.

Pronk is lurking.

It’s like night and day, watching Pronk months ago and now. He was waving pitches out of the zone like he couldn’t reach them, a product of a weak shoulder, and simply rolling over on pitches that he should be taking the other way.

Last night, he went the other way on the third pitch he saw and shot it into left field for a single. Sooner or later, those pitches will creep closer to his body and get sent into orbit.

The home runs will come, the doubles will come, and of course, the unintentional-intentional walks will also come. But, once again, it feels good to see Travis Hafner back—the real Travis Hafner, that is.