Posted: Wednesday January 24, 2007 1:58PM; Updated: Wednesday January 24, 2007 2:40PM
By Franz Lidz
The Pronkinator's innner circle includes his new bride, Amy, and all 75 citizens from his rural hometown.
Clay Patrick McBride/SI
The 6'3", 240-pound slugger widely considered to be baseball's strongest is a mild, diffident fellow who laughs easily and often. "He's shy and very short with words," says his garrulous bride, Amy, whom he married in November. "After he met my parents, I asked Dad, 'Do you like him?' My father said, 'He seems really nice, but can he talk?'"
Mostly, Hafner lets his bat do the talking. At Jacobs Field, his 33-ounce Sam chatters along to the fanfare of the German industrial metal band Rammstein. "I have no idea what those guys are singing, but their music gets me pretty pumped up," he says. "The lyrics could be about anything -- that's kind of the beauty of it."
Rammstein translates to "battering ram" -- which doesn't begin to describe Hafner's ability to break games open. "He can hit the ball out of Yellowstone," says Bob McClure, the Royals pitching coach. "He has Reggie Jackson-type power with better plate discipline." White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper reaches back to the Stone Age to find Pronk's antecedent. "He reminds me of Barney Rubble in a uniform, and I mean that in a complimentary way," says Cooper, who adds, "I'm not going to talk about what we'll try and do against him differently this year in detail, but soft stuff seems to have positive results. If I have my say, this guy will no longer have a chance to beat us. We'll pass and go onto the next guy. Use our get-out-of-jail-free card with him."
Some DHs would rather play in the field. "It keeps my mind from wandering," says Jason Giambi, the sometime first baseman of the Yankees. But Hafner, who has played first in only 11 intraleague games since 2004, embraces the limitations of DH'ing. Between at bats Hafner watches game tapes in the clubhouse, rides a stationary bike in the weight room and swats balls off a tee in a cage beneath the stands. "Just one drawback to DH'ing," he says. "It's hard to work on your tan."
A creature of simple appetites, Pronk is. "Every morning he has Frosted Flakes, Rice Krispies or Lucky Charms," says Amy. "He once had Lucky Charms 30 days in a row. That might have been overdoing it." When Amy met him, he also had a three-meal rotation: steak, spaghetti and hot dish. A Dakotas delicacy, hot dish consists of noodles, ground beef and Campbell's tomato soup. Tomatoes figure prominently in his diet -- about the only food on which he doesn't dump ketchup is ketchup. "Travis puts it on everything," Amy says. "Steak, chicken, eggs, corn, you name it."
His attire is equally uncomplicated. "He's easy to buy gifts for," Amy says. "All he ever wants are jeans and wrestling T-shirts." Hafner owns 50 pro wrestling T-shirts, all black. Amy's favorite from the Hafner Collection reads, i'm not very smart, but i can lift heavy things. "Pronk enjoys his dumb image," says Indians general manager Mark Shapiro. "It makes pitchers underestimate him."