Washington Nationals star Bryce Harper was caught by TV cameras and broadcasters using one of Yasiel Puig's "YP-66" bats last week. If you let your mind wander, you can come up with all kinds of weird reasons that might have happened. But just stop there.
We've learned the reason, thanks to Nats beat writer Adam Kilgore of The Washington Post, and it's not really as weird as you might dream up. Harper collects bats from other players and "experiments" with them.
According to Kilgore's story, Harper has used bats over the years belonging to Chase Utley, Yoenis Cespedes, Robinson Cano, Troy Tulowitzki, David Wright, Buster Posey, Todd Helton and Miguel Cabrera, among others.
Basically, Harper is a serial bat-trier-outer. If bats were ice cream, he'd be the guy who goes to Baskin Robbins and samples 15 of the 31 flavors before picking what he wants. There's nothing wrong with that — the bat sampling part, we mean — because Harper is a player who will tinker with his stance and swing. He's constantly trying to improve, which he should at age 21. It's still just odd when we catch him carrying another man's lumber.
More explanation from Kilgore's story:
“I mean, I swing everybody’s model,” Harper said.
Harper collects the bats not as artifacts, but as experiments. He likes to switch between bats to find out what feels best to him at a given time, or even against a given pitcher. When he finds a bat he likes, he’ll order their model with his name on it. He has no problem swinging a bat with another player’s name on it.
“Unless I’m playing against their team,” Harper said. “There’s no way, no shot.”
Harper said that by the time the Nationals play the Dodgers, he’ll have ordered a batch of Puig’s model – YP-66 – with his name on the barrel, so he can use it if he wants. The other day, he used Puig’s bat because it is 34½ inches long, a half-inch longer than the model he typically uses. Against Wade Miley’s slider, which broke away from him, it gave him an extra inch to reach the pitch. He also used it for the same reason against Trevor Cahill, whose sinker breaks big away from a left-handed hitter.
Harper is hardly the only MLB hitter to have what outsiders might see as a weird relationship with bats. Carlos Beltran talked before last year's World Series about taking his bat to bed with him. Whatever works.
But the passing down of bats isn't just a silly joke, it's actually pretty cool in a family-tree sort of way. Elsewhere on the Washington Nationals, Ian Desmond uses a re-named version of Manny Ramirez's old model. Harper has one of those too. A go-to bat for Harper these days is Cespedes' model, which is adapted from Utley's bat. Cespedes put a larger knob on the end.
So if you somehow find it weird that Harper is doing bat experimenting, just consider that other players are into bat Frankensteining. Freaky.
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