Word-for-word, piece-for-piece, I think Lee Jenkins is one of the best writers at Sports Illustrated these days. His latest piece, previewing the Serious in this week’s issue, is on Blastmaster Ryan Howard:
Howard’s bat measures a stout 35 inches, 34 ounces, but in his hands it looks like a toothpick.
Those hands, big as a middle infielder’s mitt, are what former Phillies general manager Pat Gillick noticed the first time he saw Howard play six years ago in the Arizona Fall League. When Gillick is scouting a player, he looks forward to shaking the player’s hand. A strong handshake portends home run power. “That’s where the evaluation begins,” Gillick says. When he thinks back on the strongest handshakes he has felt in more than 40 years of scouting, he rattles off some formidable names: Eddie Murray, George Bell, Alex Rodriguez and Howard. (After shaking this reporter’s hand, Gillick said, “Didn’t hit many home runs, did you?” So true.)
Teammates compare Howard’s drives to golf shots because they backspin out of the ballpark and don’t stop rising until they’re out of sight. “When you hit one flush, you don’t feel a thing,” Howard says. “You just hear the pop.”
Speaking of Howard, I know I’ve mentioned this before, but man, does he ever remind me of the Boogie Down’s own, Kris Parker, KRS-ONE for short.
Okay, enough with the calmness. Time to start getting amped.