Batting stances are like fingerprints. Each one is unique to every hitter to ever play the game, whether a high school player or a Major League All-Star is wielding the bat. In the Major Leagues, some players break the conventions of what they were taught while developing their skills as a child. These players have molded unique, strange, and sometimes downright bizarre batting stances. Below are the top 10 strangest batting stances of all time.
10. Willie Stargell
Hall of Famer Willie Stargell kicks off this list of unusual batting stances. Stargell, a career-long member of the Pittsburgh Pirates, had a unique way of holding his bat in the batter’s box. He would hold the bat a great distance behind his head, while his head would rest gently on his right shoulder. While not a mind-blowingly crazy stance, it was one of the more odd stances of his time. Odd or not, the stance led Willie to seven All-Star appearances, two World Series wins, and two home run crowns.
9. Rod Carew
Rod Carew’s career definitely sparkles and shines with accomplishments. Making the All-Star team 18 times and winning the AL batting crown seven times, his days in baseball can only be looked upon as awe-inspiring. However, with all of those batting titles, it may come as a surprise that his batting stance goes against conventional wisdom in the baseball world. Carew’s stance stuck out mainly due to the fact that he held his bat horizontally in the batter’s box. As a child playing baseball, you’re taught to hold the bat vertically (with varying degrees of angles). Holding the bat horizontally is completely out of the question and will get you yelled at on the ball field. Even so, Rod found a way to make it work and molded a career out of consistent contact hitting. He ended his time as a player with a career batting average of .328 and 3,053 hits.
8. Aaron Rowand
While hosting a modest batting average of .273, Aaron Rowand was known more for his success with his glove than with his bat. A Gold Glove winner in 2007, Rowand retired in 2011 after ten years in the league. While folks in Chicago will remember him for his two World Series wins in 2005 and 2010, he is known to the rest of baseball as a ball player with a bizarre batting stance. Aaron pointed his knees diagonally outward (think opposite of squeezing your knees together). He also looked as if he were leaning back from time to time in the batter’s box, giving the appearance of losing balance. While Rowand may be gone from the game of baseball, his strange stance at the plate will remain with baseball fans for a long time.
7. Jeff Bagwell
It’s rare to encounter a baseball player who spends at least ten years in the big leagues with the same team. Bagwell is one of those men, spending his entire 15-year career with the Houston Astros. While becoming a symbol of what the Astros were all about in the 1990s, Jeff also became synonymous with a unique batting stance. He crouched extremely low to the ground, knees parallel with the dirt. It takes a massive amount of leg power and strength to do this for every pitch, during every at-bat, in every game. However, Bagwell managed to accomplish this and do it successfully. He ended up winning the Silver Slugger Award three times (1994, 1997, 1999). Jeff’s strange mechanics in the batter’s box didn’t end with the crouch. He also stepped backwards with his front foot (instead of the forward motion taught since tee-ball). Bagwell will always be known as “the man who crouched.”
6. Julio Franco
Power comes in many forms off of the baseball bat. Some players have what’s known as “long swings”, which are huge cuts that are taken at the ball every time. These big, forceful swings are mainly used by power hitters. Others have short, succinct swings for contact hitting (and sometimes power). Julio Franco’s batting stance falls into the former category, mainly due to the placement of his bat. While most big league players hold the bat vertically, Franco is known for hanging his bat over his head. This hanging motion drastically slows down the reaction time he has to get to the ball. While many coaches would scold this stance, Julio became famous for it. It seemed to work for him, too. He won the Silver Slugger Award five times in his career. A trend is beginning to emerge in this list. Goofy stances don’t necessarily ruin a batter’s chances of achieving success.
5. Moises Alou
A great contact hitter from the 1990s and 2000s, Moises Alou is a six-time All-Star and a winner of the Silver Slugger Award twice (1994, 1998). Moises’ unusual stance doesn’t stem from the position of the bat. Rather, it has to do with the odd way he positions his knees. When Alou came up to bat, his knees would be angled inward. In one photo of his knees, it looks as if they are almost touching! Alou’s strange stance also earned him a career .303 batting average and over 1,000 RBI’s. Once again, an unusual stance brings in great numbers and statistics.
4. Phil Plantier
A year before Jeff Bagwell and his wide-crouched stance made their debut, there was a man named Phil Plantier. Plantier may have given attention to the crouched stance, though his differed from Jeff Bagwell’s in a big way. While Bagwell’s legs were positioned far apart, Plantier’s legs were bunched close together. His feet were a tad shorter than shoulder length apart. Oh, and his knees were almost touching his chest when he swung the bat. Plantier’s stance must have created a small center of mass, since everything was huddled so close together. This is one example of an unusual batting stance not working out for a batter. Plantier only batted .243 in his MLB tenure. He would play for five different teams during his seven-year career.
3. Craig Counsell
One of the oddest stances you will ever see comes from two-time World Series winner Craig Counsell. While not a powerhouse at the plate, Craig’s contact hitting led to a .255 career batting average. Counsell’s unusual batting stance mainly focuses on his arms. Both are raised high above his head as he patiently waits for the pitch to cross the plate. Being a left-handed hitter, his left hand is on top of his right hand on the bat, making him look like he is reaching for something high above his head. Counsell would also clap his elbows together as he waited for the pitch. Truly a sight to see for any sports fan.
2. Kevin Youkilis
If you’re familiar with baseball, then you’ve heard the “Yoouuuk” chant during a Boston Red Sox game. Known for his tough on-field personality and non-athletic build, Kevin became a staple in the Boston Red Sox organization for eight years (2004-2012). Apart from his physique and personality, Youkilis is also known for his odd manner of standing in the batter’s box. Normally, a hitter grips the bat with their hands together. Some choke up on the bat to obtain more control over it. Youkilis took choking up to the extreme, sliding his left hand almost halfway up the bat. The bat would hang over his head, and as the pitch came in, Kevin would slide his hand back down to the “normal” position, hoping to get a hit. A unique sports package, Kevin Youkilis will always be remembered for his zany stance.
1. Tony Batista
This man absolutely smashed batting conventions and rules with his off-the-wall stance in the batter’s box. Batista, a two-time All-Star (2000, 2002), didn’t even look as if he followed any of the normal conventions in the batter’s box. First, Tony would stand in an “open stance”. His feet and shoulders would be set squarely at the pitcher. His left foot would be sitting a good length outside the batter’s box. As the pitcher wound up Batista would time it so he would swing his left foot into the box and step forward, hopefully making contact with the pitch. I doubt anyone will ever use a crazier batting stance than this in the Major Leagues.