Hunter Pence’s batting stance won’t show up in the Spalding guide. The lanky right fielder scored the nickname the “Praying Mantis” when he was with the Astros courtesy of his unusual approach at the plate.
Pence laughs in the face of baseball convention, which advises players to adopt a classic but generic approach.
“I obviously don’t buy that,” Pence said. “We’re all unique. No one has the same body parts and hands. I remember watching this film in high school.
“The instruction was that there was one way to hit. I remember [the voice-over] saying, ‘You’ve seen how major leaguers hit, well don’t pay attention to that.’ That didn’t make any sense to me at all.”
Instead, Pence chokes up on the bat an inch-and-a-half and squats low, while his body gyrates rapidly. Then there is his unconventional loose swing, which is the opposite of most player’s strokes.
“It works for me,” Pence said. “That’s how I’m most comfortable and that’s part of what hitting is about. The thing is that you have to be ready, be on time and see the ball at the plate. What I do at the plate works for me.”
Pence is a lifetime .292 hitter with 117 home runs, a .342 OBP and .484 slugging percentage. Impressive numbers for Pence, who has been moved to cleanup with Ryan Howard out indefinitely.
“I’m enjoying the challenge,” Pence said, who slugged a home run Tuesday night and leads the Phils with 11 RBIs. “I have a lot of responsibility in this order. I know I can do the job. I can hit but I have to hit my way. That’s the only way I know how to do it.”
And Pence has some advice for young ballplayers.
“Do it your way,” Pence said. “Baseball is a fluid game. It’s a rhythm game. You’re often told to swing one way in one path. You’re told to swing level. Sometimes that doesn’t work. This game is about seeing the ball and hitting it.”