Travis Hafner's nickname 'Pronk' is Hall of Fame-worthy itself
Travis Hafner didn't look like a prototypical athlete. He was large and bulky, with a body that seemed geared more for the world of professional wrestling. When he ran the bases, it was less Lou Brock and more Lou Ferrigno. Put all together, those qualities earned him the nicknames "The Project" and "Donkey." Those aren't bad nicknames by any means, but they weren't perfect.
Fortunately, there was Indians utility player Bill Selby, who gifted Hafner with the moniker that he was born for: "Pronk." By combining the two words, Selby created something that fit the player like the glove he didn't wear because he was a DH. It also turned out to be an actual, real word that was a perfect fit. "Pronk" -- as I learned -- is the stiff-legged leap of an antelope.
That nickname is so good, it alone is worthy of induction into the Hall of Fame - and sure, we can induct Hafner along with it.
This was a name that was perfect for Cleveland's DH. When he sprinted -- as he did when he remarkably hit for the cycle -- there's only one word for it: Pronk.
When he got in his swaying crouch and launched one of his 213 big league home runs, there was only one word for it: Pronk. Just watch the lone Indians fan behind home plate, who jumped up and surely shouted "Pronk!" to the heavens:
When Hafner had a candy bar created in his honor, well, obviously, there was only one name for it: Pronk. Made by a local Cleveland candy company, Hafner said it was like a Crunch bar with "better chocolate," adding it was "Probably the best candy bar you'll ever taste."
And when he only ate children's cereal for breakfast, well, that's Pronk. "He once had Lucky Charms 30 days in a row," his wife Amy told Sports Illustrated in 2007. "That might have been overdoing it."
Few could hit like Hafner. He averaged 34 home runs a year from 2004-06 and tied Don Mattingly's record for grand slams in a season in 2006:
He was the large, rocky mass (or Pronk) at the center of the Indians lineup, who often found his way into big hits in big situations:
Unfortunately, the injury bug struck Hafner in his prime. A series of shoulder, back, knee, foot, ankle, abdomen and hand injuries made him more closely resemble an anatomy poster rather than the fearsome slugger. Sure, he'd smash some world beaters, like this walk-off grand slam in 2011, but he wasn't automatic any longer.
The heights of his career didn't last long enough for the Hall of Fame, but Hafner's nickname belongs in its own wing. There are plenty of power hitters in baseball history, but there is only one Pronk.