Hafner's sweet swing a real treat for Indians

Al Notebook


Travis Hafner now has it all.

The former 31st-round draft pick of the Texas Rangers found a home in Cleveland in 2003 after the Indians acquired him and pitcher Aaron Myette for catcher Einar Diaz and pitcher Ryan Drese in what might be one of the most lopsided trades of this decade.

Hafner, 28, has become the most feared member of the Indians' young and impressive lineup. Last year, the Indians' designated hitter hit 33 homers and drove in more than 100 runs for the second consecutive season. He received national recognition when he finished fifth in the American League Most Valuable Player voting.

And, to top it off, he now has his own candy bar.

"The Travis Hafner Pronk Crunch Bar" is, according to Cleveland-based Malley's Chocolates' Web site, 2.25 ounces of "delectable milk chocolate with crispies." You can order a box of 30 for $30.

"It's the best candy bar I've ever had," said Hafner, whose nickname, Pronk, combines two other monikers, project and donkey. "When they talked to me about this, I wasn't sure. Then they sent them to me and I couldn't believe how good they were."

Hafner, whose Indians come to Camden Yards for a three-game series starting Tuesday, needs to be careful. The last Indians player to have his own candy bar was Albert Belle, and Orioles fans can tell you how that career ended up.

Right now, though, Hafner's baseball life is going sickeningly sweet.

He hit homers in five of six games recently and, at one point, reached base safely in 11 straight plate appearances -- the longest such streak in Indians history since divisional play began in 1969.

He homered twice in Cleveland's home opener against the Minnesota Twins. Before that game, he handed out the Pronk Crunch bars to his teammates.

"I was pumped," Hafner said. "I felt like a proud papa."

A streak ends

New York Yankees public address announcer Bob Sheppard missed the team's home opener for the first time since he took the job in 1951. The legendary voice of Yankee Stadium threw out his left hip earlier last week at his home on Long Island.

Believed to be in his 90s (he doesn't reveal his age), Sheppard expects to return for Friday's game against the Orioles. His longtime backup, Jim Hall, filled in.

Black magic in Oakland

New Oakland starter Esteban Loaiza, who signed a mind-numbing three-year, $21 million deal this offseason with the money-conscious Athletics, isn't exactly living up to the investment. He allowed a combined 17 hits, seven walks and 11 earned runs in his first two starts. His fastball has been sitting in the 82-86 mph range.

Loaiza isn't sure what's wrong, but he's hoping to dismiss one concern.

"I hope nobody has a curse against me," Loaiza said. "I hope nobody gave me the little voodoo stuff."

Quick hits

The Tampa Bay Devil Rays drew 40,199 for their home opener against the Orioles on Monday. In their next three games, the combined attendance was 36,349. ... The Kansas City Royals were swept by the Yankees last week and have now dropped 14 straight at Yankee Stadium, tying a franchise record for consecutive losses at one ballpark.

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