If you grew up watching baseball, a lot of your time was probably spent trying to mimic the mechanics of certain players. It might have been a hitch in your favorite pitcher's windup or a certain plate routine from a top hitter. But some players are just inimitable, whether it's their seamless mechanics or the fact that what they do is just completely unique.
Baseball swings come naturally to people over time. Some are truly unique. Wednesday marks 30 years since baseball saw one of those swings for the first time, as Ken Griffey Jr. stepped up against the Athletics in his MLB debut. What would follow, of course, was a 22-year career that will forever be remembered in Cooperstown.
Make no mistake though, Griffey isn't the only player with a sweet swing. Plenty of others have left their mark on Little Leaguers everywhere. So here are some of the other cleanest swings in MLB history, graded by uniqueness, pop and when whether they're "smooth."
10. Mike Trout (2011-present)
How can a swing this good be this low on the list, you ask? Because Mike Trout's swing is everything you'd expect out of Mike Trout: It's perfect. He has a stupid perfect step with a stupid perfect hip turn and a stupid perfect follow through. No, Mike Trout is not boring, don't let anyone tell you that, but he is so ridiculously mechanically sound that you just can't find anything "unique" about his swing. All you know is that you're definitely going to use him to teach your kids, and wonder why they're so bad at it compared to him.
9. Tony Gwynn
You can't say enough about Mr. Padre's swing, especially since his stats tell you all you need to know. Tony Gwynn batted .338 in his career, highlighted up a whopping .394 spot in 1994. Gwynn's swing was compact, precise and it took the ball wherever he wanted it to go. His highest strikeout total in a single season is just 40. For reference, Placido Polanco -- a player famed for never striking out -- struck out 40-plus times in six seasons. Gwynn just had an uncanny ability to put his bat on the ball. To compare two completely different players in every way, Gwynn struck out 434 times in 20 seasons. Aaron Judge has struck out 411 times in four years. To Gwynn, his swing was a science -- not an art. Take it from the man himself.
8. Will Clark
Will Clark just has one of those really nice, old-timey swings. He looked a little bit like Todd Cleary from "Wedding Crashers" in his stance, but don't let that fool you. Clark was a spring ready to uncoil. He would let a ball get to the back tip of the plate before swinging, and somehow still take it right back up the middle. Clark felt like he was trying to lure fielders into a false sense of security with his swing, but he had some of the quickest hands we'll ever see, and it showed.
7. Barry Bonds
Barry Bonds did not, I repeat did not have a smooth swing. Barry Bonds had an "I want that baseball's lunch money" swing. He absolutely destroyed everything he made contact with, and he made contact with a lot. Bonds never struck out as much as a guy who put up the power hitting numbers he did should have, and that's what made him so fun to watch. He clobbered everything, and all you could do as a pitcher (if you didn't want to walk him) was hope he didn't destroy the first pitch you put in the zone.
Vlad was kind of a hitting savant. He was all herky jerky at the plate, but once his swing got going, it was art. The best part about watching Guerrero his was that he never saw a pitch he didn't want to swing at, and he never saw a pitch he couldn't hit. Put it in the dirt? He'll dig it out. Put it at his eyes? He'll jump and swing. It didn't matter. He ended up in all sorts of compromising batting positions, but each and every time he found a way to make contact. Guerrero was really a one-of-a-kind hitter, and you couldn't help but laugh when he'd poke a single into left field off a pitch that grazed his shoelaces.
5. Ted Williams
Ted Williams just made it look so easy. While his swing had the compactness of some of the great contact hitters in baseball history, it also had serious power. In fact, if Williams hadn't missed three seasons of his prime years to serve in the military, he likely would've retired with around 600 home runs. He may not have had the fluidity of some of his contemporaries, but Williams' swing had a truly absurd amount of pop, and the numbers prove it.
4. Joe DiMaggio
DiMaggio didn't have the numbers that Williams had, but his swing was gorgeous all the same. He also had an old-timey style and his stance was a lot more flat-footed than what you see today, But he put everything in play and when he did, he was nearly impossible to get out. You don't get hits in 56 straight games if you're doing something wrong, and DiMaggio was one of the first players with that truly quintessential swing.
Albert Pujols may not be the player he was with St. Louis, but in his prime it was thought he could challenge Barry Bonds' home run record. He had 445 home runs through 2011, and he hit 30 more dingers in his first season with the Angels. Injuries ultimately derailed that dream, and he's unarguably in the twilight of his career, but Pujols' prime years were something special. He had power, sure, but he also had consistency. There was never a misplaced motion in his swing with the Cardinals.
2. Alex Rodriguez
Polarizing figure? Absolutely. Unbelievable player? You betcha. A-Rod's swing was silky, and with how messy his departure from baseball got it's easy to forget he finished his career four homers shy of 700 and had over 3,000 hits. Rodriguez had a long, loping swing that could take the ball out of the park at any given time. Love or hate A-Rod the person, A-Rod the player could absolutely clobber the ball.
1. Ken Griffey Jr.
Some things become so hyped that they are almost mythical, but Griffey's swing gets the proper amount of hype. Everything was one motion, everything was cohesive, everything was easy. Griffey forever has baseball's best swing. Even his Backyard Baseball player was the most satisfying to play with, because the hand off the bat follow through was just so incredibly pleasing.