Coaching Could Be Hafner’s Next Endeavor
Travis Hafner does not believe for a minute that his career as a Major League Baseball player is over. At the age of 36 and with injuries continuing to pile up, he finds himself without a spot on a big league roster with about a month to go until spring training camps open up. Hafner fully believes that he will land a job between now and then, or at the very least the opportunity to win a job from someone.
In the meantime, Hafner’s free time will consist of rehab, working out, and coaching. Yes, you read that correctly – Coaching.
On Wednesday afternoon it was announced that Travis Hafner will join the coaching staff at Notre Dame College. No, not the one in South Bend, Indiana. The one located in South Euclid, Ohio next door to what used to be Regina High School. It’s not a full-time paid position. Hafner will be on board as a “volunteer assistant coach” with the freedom to leave should a big league club come calling.
For all intents and purposes, it would seem unlikely that Hafner will receive serious consideration from a Major League team. While his power potential and on base skills are still enough to warrant attention, his age and the laundry list of injuries are a definite red flag. Simply put, Travis Hafner cannot be relied upon to stay healthy for any significant period of time. In recent years it hasn’t been a question of whether or not Hafner is healthy. The question is, when would he get hurt?
During his ten seasons with the Indians, Hafner established himself as one of the more consistent power bats in the American League. His .278/.382/.509 slash line and 200 home runs are a testament to his ability during his those years. In fact, during the peak of his career, a four-year stretch from 2004 through 2007, Pronk went .296/.410/.567 with an OPS+ of 156, 127 homers and 434 RBI. He was a machine, but once the injuries started he was never the same.
From that stand point, it makes sense why Len Barker (Yes, THAT Len Barker) would want Hafner to be a member of his staff, even on a volunteer basis with the off-chance that he could be gone by mid February. Despite the fact that Hafner’s career with the Indians flatlined towards the end in 2012, his knowledge of hitting and how to have a patient approach at the plate is something he can pass on to the next generation. It’s unclear exactly what Hafner will do as a member of the Notre Dame coaching staff but hitting will definitely be involved.
As for the future of his career, Hafner is continuing to work out as if he expects to land a job. He is reportedly working hard on his body and his swing, both of which “feel good.” Whether or not that translates to a job with a big league club remains to be seen, but as Steve Kinsella likes to point out, “power plays.” Knowing this, it would seem likely that Hafner could land a job in a Jason Giambi type of role serving as a mentor to younger players while providing power off of the bench and one, maybe twice a week in the starting lineup.
If not, Hafner is already well on his way to beginning the next chapter of his life. If coaching is something he wants to pursue as his next great endeavor, this opportunity with Notre Dame is a good start.