Pronk: March, 2001 – June 2008
Pronk, the devastating power hitter and grizzled alter-ego of Indians DH Travis Hafner, and the force behind some of baseball’s most prolific offense between 2004 to 2006, died over the weekend. He was seven years old.
Pronk had been in declining health for some time, but those close to him – Hafner, the Indians, and everyone who bought a "Pronkville" T-shirt – retained hope he would pull through. However, in recent weeks, it became clear that this baseball-murdering presence would not survive until the All-Star break. ...
Pronk was born in Hafner’s first spring-training game with the Texas Rangers organization in 2001, when an apparently uncreative teammate named Bill Selby combined Hafner's other two nicknames – The Project, because he was young, and Donkey, for the way he ambled around the bases -- to come up with Pronk. "Donject," friends recall, was "too hard to spell."
The alter-ego took awhile to mature, but eventually defined Hafner as the most-feared hitter in the Indians’ lineup. But the decline began in 2007, when Pronk could only help Hafner muster 24 HR and an .836 OPS, and the Indians flamed out on their way to what looked like a sure World Series berth. The team tried to invigorate Pronk by signing Hafner to a 4-year, $57 million dollar extension. But nothing worked.
The end was slow and painful, stretching for over a year. But this season, with only 4 HR, a .676 OPS, and a .217 BA, it finally and mercifully came. He was pronounced dead in the Indians locker room. No services will be held, because that would just be creepy.
Pronk is survived by Hafner, 30, and hundreds of uneaten Pronk Bars. -- Vince the Polack