Hafner to be Inducted into Florida State League Hall of Fame
Bob Toth | On 06, Aug 2016
The Florida State League Hall of Fame Committee announced their 2016 Class of Inductees on Friday. Former Indians first baseman and designated hitter Travis Hafner was among the nine honorees selected.
The 39-year-old Hafner last played in 2013 while a member of the New York Yankees, appearing in 82 games that season as the club’s designated hitter. He hit .202 that season with a dozen homers and 37 RBI in one of just two Major League seasons spent outside of a Cleveland Indians uniform.
“Pronk” began his professional career in 1997, when he signed with the Texas Rangers. The club had selected him in the 31st round of the 1996 draft out of Cowley County Community College in Arkansas City, Kansas.
After a season in the Gulf Coast League in 1997 and a pair of seasons in the South Atlantic League in 1998 and 1999, Hafner joined the Port Charlotte Rangers in Port Charlotte, Florida, for the 2000 season. As a member of the High-A Florida State League that season, he appeared in 122 games, registering 34 doubles, a triple, 22 home runs, and 109 RBI while batting .346 for the season with a .447 on-base percentage, .580 slugging percentage, and 1.027 OPS. He was hit by pitches 18 times, walked 67, and scored 90 runs on the year in his lone action in the league.
Hafner was promoted to Tulsa of the Double-A level for the 2001 season and spent 2002 with Triple-A Oklahoma before his promotion to the parent Texas Rangers in time for his Major League debut on August 6, 2002. With a logjam of corner infield prospects (including Mark Teixeira and Hank Blalock) and Rafael Palmeiro at first base in the Majors, Hafner was expendable and was dealt to Cleveland with pitcher Aaron Myette on December 6, 2002, for catcher Einar Diaz and pitcher Ryan Drese.
The trade would go down as one of the more lopsided deals in Indians history as Hafner became a feared slugger in the heart of the Cleveland batting order for years. In his first full season in the Majors in 2004, he hit 41 doubles, 28 homers, and drove in 109 runs while slashing .311/.410/.583 with a league-high 17 hit by pitches. The numbers climbed again the following season, when he played in 137 games and hit 42 doubles, 33 homers, drove in 108, and slashed .305/.408/.595 with a 1.003 OPS while finishing fifth in the MVP race on the second place 93-69 Indians.
He set career highs in 2006 with 42 homers, 117 RBI, a .659 slugging percentage, and a 1.097 OPS despite playing in 129 games. He established a record with six grand slams that season, including five before the All-Star break. He played in a career-high 152 games the next season, seeing some power declines, but still hitting 25 doubles and 24 homers while knocking in 100 runs and walking a career-high 102 times.
Injuries derailed Hafner’s career starting in 2008, as he would appear in no more than 118 games over his final five seasons in an Indians uniform while lacking some of the punch from his bat that fans had become accustomed to. He would hit no more than 29 doubles (2010), 16 homers (2009), and 57 RBI (2011) in the remaining half decade in Cleveland.
He finished his career on the shores of Lake Erie with 200 homers, 688 RBI, and a lifetime .278 batting average as a member of the Indians.
Other former members of the Indians organization (player, manager, coach, or front office) who have been inducted into the Florida State League Hall of Fame include Early Wynn (2009), Al Lopez (2009), Eddie Murray (2009), Al Nipper (2013), Buck Showalter (2013), Kerry Wood (2014), and Kenny Lofton (2015). Mike Veeck (2013), the son of former Indians owner Bill Veeck, has also been honored.
Hafner will be joined in induction with several prominent players of past and present.
Former Cy Young award pitcher Roy Halladay (Toronto, Philadelphia) is the lone pitcher selected. Current Minnesota Twins first baseman Joe Mauer and Philadelphia Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard are among the other position players to be picked. Non-players selected include Marc Bombard, a former minor league pitcher and manager, and Gene Lamont, who played and managed in the Florida State League at one point during his lengthy career in baseball. Executives Don Miers and Dick Radatz Jr. and MLB umpire John Hirschbeck, whose first World Series worked was the Indians/Braves matchup in 1995, round out the class of nine men to be inducted.
The 2016 Florida State League Hall of Fame class will be inducted on November 15, 2016, at the Sheraton Sand Key Resort in Clearwater Beach, Florida.
Photo: Chuck Crow/The Plain Dealer