August 02, 2011
Pence was so focused Monday night, he stepped into the batter's box in the 10th inning with a weighted doughnut (called — no snickering — a Hitting Jack-it) still snugly attached to his bat. If teammates on the Phillies bench hadn't noticed and shouted at him to remove it, Pence would have swung the bat against Colorado Rockies left-hander Rex Brothers(notes) carrying perhaps another pound of weight.
Huh? What? Oh, thanks guys.
Historians credit former Yankees great Elston Howard with inventing the batting doughnut in the 1960s. (Mmm, doughnut.) Ever since, ballplayers have warmed up in the on-deck circle with the added weight on their bats. Some guys, like Frank Thomas used to, swing iron bars in the on-deck circle.
One of the possible benefits is mental: After warming up with heavier equipment, batters go the plate having tricked themselves into thinking they are swinging a lighter bat.
The Rockies broadcast team was amused:
Drew Goodman: "You don't want to swing the bat...he's got one of the Hitting Jack-its on the bat still. That thing added an extra — depends on which one it is — probably 12 or 16 ounces. That would be real tough to hit a guy throwing 97 with a 47-ounce bat all of a sudden."
Jeff Huson: "I'm just shocked that he went all of the way up to home plate with it."
George Frazier: "That'll be in the paper tomorrow."
As Goodman also pointed out, players can take batting practice with the Jack-it, which doesn't sit high on the barrel and doesn't — sadly — look like a doughnut. Pence's teammate Ryan Howard(notes) (pictured) still swings old school. And we also can be certain the likes of John Kruk and Prince Fielder(notes) would have disposed of their doughnuts before going to bat.
The relatively new product Pence uses is endorsed by Pittsburgh's Clint Hurdle (the bunting-est manager in the big leagues) and Hall of Famer George Brett! Well, if George Brett's using it, I'm using it.
Pence, by the way, flied out to left without the extra weight. Perhaps he was so excited about Philly's come-from-behind 4-3 victory that he just lost himself in the moment.