A batting stance is highly personal, usually created early in a player's career and one that stays in place for the long run. Hall of Famers like Jackie Robinson -- straight up with his legs spread wide and bat held high -- and Stan Musial -- feet close together, body curled like a coiled spring -- had stances as distinctive as their personal DNAs.
Then there is Ike Davis of the Mets, who had a solid rookie season and then re-made himself at the plate. Davis came to the Majors with bat held high, and it worked well in a year in which he batted .264 with 19 home runs and 71 runs batted in. This season, though, he dropped his hands dramatically, a new look for the lanky first baseman.
"I was just messing around," Davis said. "It was to shorten my swing. You want to hit the ball square with backspin. The whole key is to hit it on the barrel. You've got to hit it hard. You want to be relaxed at the plate and be able to swing free and easy. Sometimes, you get too pumped up and you get yourself out. The approach has to be if I hit it, I hit it. I swing hard. It's all about putting good at-bats together."
The plan was working just fine for Davis, who had seven home runs with 25 RBIs and was hitting .302 over the first five weeks of the season. He set a Mets record with nine RBIs in the season's first 10 games. Then, in a May 10 game at Colorado, Troy Tulowitzki hit a simple popup in front of the pitcher's mound. Davis and third baseman Davis Wright converged on the ball and collided. Wright made the catch, but Davis came out of the collision with a sprained ankle and bone bruise that sent him to the disabled list.
"It's a huge loss," said manager Terry Collins, whose team has battled through a rash of injuries. The Mets hope to have Davis back by June 1.
Coillins appreciates Davis' mature approach at the plate. "He's made adjustments," the manager said. "He's cut his swing down. He's not trying to pull everything. He's using the whole field."
Davis has become a centerpiece in the Mets lineup since being promoted from Triple-A Buffalo two weeks into the 2010 season. He had a big Spring Training, but the Mets didn't want to rush him to the Major Leagues. "I thought I'd be a September callup," he said. "I only missed 12 games. I didn't expect that."
Davis made the most of the opportunity. He was a consistent bat in a lineup that was often offensively challenged. His defense was flawless and he made three memorable plays, catching foul popups as his body folded over the railing in front of the Mets dugout.
What's more, he was not intimidated by the dimensions at Citi Field, a pitcher-friendly park that yields home runs begrudgingly.
"What can you do?" Davis said. "It's my home. It's not going to change. I'm not going to worry about it."
Davis shrugged off the size of the ballpark to hit eight homers at Citi Field in 2010. He had two more before going on the DL this season, including a 456-foot shot that ranks as one of the longest in the three-year history of the ballpark.
His long-ball ability was one of the attractions for the Mets, who drafted him in the first round of the 2008 First-Year Player Draft after he hit .385 with 26 doubles and 16 home runs in his junior year at Arizona State. He also came equipped with baseball genes. His father, Ron Davis, pitched in the Major Leagues for 11 years. They are the 197th father-son pair to play in the big leagues.
Davis said he talks to his dad frequently, but rarely about baseball. "Mostly, it's what you'd expect -- father and son talk."
But not batting stances.
Hal Bock is a freelance writer based in New York.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.