5/3/2013 10:00 A.M. ET
Lost in the moment: Players describe joy of homers
By Zack Meisel / MLB.com
There are infinite ways to describe it.
"It's like a warm butter knife through butter," said Indians designated hitter Jason Giambi.
"It's like a quarterback throwing a touchdown," said Phillies slugger Ryan Howard.
"It's just like hitting a pure golf shot," said Cleveland first baseman Mark Reynolds.
There is a split second that provides the greatest feeling a hitter can experience at the plate. It is the instant in which the batter makes such perfect contact with a pitch that he immediately knows the baseball will follow a flight path that ends on the other side of the outfield fence.
How to describe that brief juncture in time varies by the guy wielding the bat. They can all agree, however, that when everything culminates in an ideal hack, the feeling is tough to beat.
"It's just a combination of things that go right," Howard said. "The right pitch, the right spot, the right swing path -- everything just comes together at the right moment."
To Reynolds, the best feeling when his bat meets the ball is no feeling at all. He averaged more than 30 home runs per season in the first six years of his Major League career. This season, Reynolds sits one long ball behind the American League leaders.
Each time Reynolds deposits a pitch into the outfield seats -- or over the scoreboard in left-center field, as he did during a Spring Training game in Goodyear, Ariz., in March -- the swing is so soothing, he says he doesn't feel a thing.
"You don't feel it," Reynolds said. "There's no vibration. There's no pain in your hands. It just feels good. It's just like hitting the sweet spot of anything. There's no vibration. There's no numb hands or jammed thumbs. You just don't feel anything."
Howard, Giambi and Reynolds should know the feeling better than most. The trio has combined for 923 home runs. Still, even a player whose on-field ability isn't predicated on power can relate.
"It's a really good feeling," said Mike Aviles, Cleveland's diminutive infielder who has circled the bases 41 times. "You know you don't have to run too fast, because you know it's going to leave the park."
Aviles has been fooled before, however. That feeling can occasionally prove to be a false alarm, and Aviles has been forced to bust out of his casual trot and into an overcompensating sprint.
"Those are definitely not fun," Aviles said. "You're like, 'Man, I have to run really fast now, when it would've been cooler to jog.'"
Alas, a perfect swing, even one that produces the ultimate feeling, doesn't always result in a roundtripper.
"It depends on where you're playing, the weather, the wind, that kind of stuff," Howard said. "Sometimes it can play tricks on you. But in a perfect playing environment, you have a pretty good idea."
The feeling doesn't lose its luster over time. Giambi said "there's no doubt" that the feeling he experienced when he connected on his 431st career home run on April 20 matched that of the first time he flexed his muscles at the plate as a rookie in 1995.
"It's always a good feeling," Howard said, "no matter if it's No. 1 or No. 100 or No. 500. The feats all feel good."
And to some, that feeling reminds them of butter.
"It's perfection, excitement, everything all rolled into one," Giambi said.