- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
"Whatever I'm doin'," he says, "I don't want to know what it is. I just want to keep on doin' it."
He does know that he is hitting the ball up in the air more this year and, trying to be helpful, once suggested it might be because he was standing up straighter at the plate. The real reasons are probably even simpler: he began the season using a 34-ounce bat instead of his usual 36-ounce one and can whip it around even faster; he weighs almost 10 pounds more than when he first came up to the big leagues, and he knows more about the pitchers—and about hitting—than he did one or two years ago.
Aaron still sends the ball ripping to all fields, and almost as many of his home runs have disappeared over the right-field fences this season as have been pulled to left. Because of this, no defense has been able to shift on him. And certainly no pitcher has yet found his weakness. When the Giants stopped him with only two singles in three games at the first of the season, Bill Rigney triumphantly announced: "I think we've found a way to pitch to Aaron." In his next 27 at bats against the Giants, Hank had 12 hits.
Outside of opposing pitchers, who may be excused, Aaron hasn't an enemy in the world. He gives Haney and the Milwaukee coaches no trouble, acts "like a big leaguer," according to Joe Taylor, the Braves equipment man and clubhouse manager, and is held in high regard both professionally and personally by his teammates, who rib him unmercifully, then praise him to the skies when his back is turned. Even the umpires love him. If a pitch is close enough to be questionable, Henry is going to hit it—or at least try to. "I don't give those umpires any call," says Henry, "to have words with me."
The Braves say Aaron is so relaxed at the plate that he catches catnaps between pitches. They know, however, that this is deceptive: once he goes up there to hit, his powers of concentration and singleness of purpose would almost put Ben Hogan to shame. One day a rookie, trying to get some pointers by watching Aaron in the batting cage, was startled at the careless way Henry was holding the bat. "You better turn the trademark up," he rashly suggested.
"Boy," said Aaron with a withering look, "I didn't come up here to read."