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Pinkham aims to resurrect P72 bat, honoring family legacy

Pinkham.JPG
Rochester Honkers catcher Zeke Pinkham chats with an opponent during a game at Mayo Field earlier this season. Pinkham's family is responsible for one of the most famous bats in baseball.
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Each time Zeke Pinkham steps onto a baseball field or walks to the plate, he faces pressure only one other person can fully appreciate.

Pinkham, a Rochester Honkers catcher, is one of two people alive who can ever use the P72 Louisville Slugger baseball bat that Hall of Famers like Cal Ripken Jr., Robin Yount and Ivan Rodriguez.

Pinkham's nephew, Jackson Webb, an Eastern Kentucky commit, is the other.

Derek Jeter also swung the P72 for all 3,465 hits of his 20-year career. That's right, he used the same Louisville Slugger bat model his whole career, which is why the company retired a bat for the first time in its 133-year history when it discontinued the P72 in 2014. Players can instead request a DJ2, the bat named in Jeter's honor that has the same specifications as the P72.

But there's a grandfather clause that can bring the P72 out of retirement. If any descendants of Leslie Pinkham — the player for whom the bat was created — reach the major leagues, Louisville Slugger will make the bat with the P72 marking for them.

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Zeke Pinkham, a catcher at Louisville, has the best chance to invoke the grandfather clause and use his grandpa's bat. It's more of an honor than a burden for Pinkham, though. Resurrecting the P72 is just another reason for him to achieve his dream of reaching MLB.

"I just know I have to get it done and have to make it," Pinkham said. "I have to perform and keep that legacy going."

The P72 provides a figurative weight on Zeke's shoulders, but it provided a literal one when he was young. Zeke, 21, remembers trying to lift the bat when he was little. He elongated the word 'huge' to describe how he viewed the bat in early elementary school. His dad, Bill Pinkham, kept a P72 behind a door in the basement when Pinkham was growing up.

"I would swing this big, old bat that was really heavy," Pinkham said. "It's a log."

It's a combination of the M159 and the M110 models designed for Stan Musial and Eddie Malone, who played in the MLB. It has a big barrel and a thin handle. At his retirement ceremony, Jeter said he stuck with the P72 because it felt like his old aluminum bat.

It is called the P72 because of how Louisville Slugger catalogs its bats. The P is for the last name of the player for whom the bat was created: Leslie Wayne Pinkham, who spent five years in the Tigers and Cardinals organizations. The 72 signifies that Leslie Pinkham was the 72nd player with a 'P' last name to have a model created for him.

Pinkham, who died in 2009, didn't intend to design a bat that multiple hall of fame players would swing, his son, Steve Pinkham said.

"That was the way he liked it," Steve Pinkham said. "He had no idea it would draw the attention it has. I am sure he is smiling in heaven seeing everyone acknowledging it."

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Leslie Pinkham has Jeter to thank. "I knew it was a famous bat, but I didn't know how famous it was until Jeter retired," Zeke Pinkham said.

Chris Meiman, Louisville Slugger museum and factory curator, said the P72 is one of the most popular models Louisville Slugger has ever created.

"It has become such an institution," Meiman said.

That's why Louisville Slugger didn't take the decision to retire it lightly.

"For Derek to use the same bat model his entire career is really extraordinary and something we felt we really needed to commemorate in a very special and unique way," Meiman said.

Zeke Pinkham has made it his mission to bring the P72 back to professional baseball ever since it was retired. He said he will swing it as soon as he steps foot on a professional baseball field.

That wasn't always his plan. As a kid, Zeke wanted to swing a Marucci bat like Albert Pujols, his favorite player. He didn't have much pressure to continue the P72 legacy then because his dad, the late Bill Pinkham, didn't talk about it much. Bill Pinkham ordered only one P72 in his three-year professional baseball stint.

Now Zeke not only understands the P72 legacy, but he also wants to build on it.

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He tries to avoid putting pressure on himself, but he can't help but think about it. Steve Pinkham, who played college baseball at Tennessee, said his nephew has handled the pressure well.

Zeke also yearns to succeed because of the countless hours he has put into baseball.

"If I don't go play professionally, I kind of see it as, what did I do with my life for 21 years?" Pinkham said. "I feel like I really have to make it."

Playing in the MLB is something Pinkham thinks about all the time. And It's not a broad dream.

His day-dreaming brings him to 161st St. in Bronx, N.Y. He imagines what the crowd will be like when he walks to the plate wearing the Yankees uniform as he brings the P72 back to Yankee Stadium for the first time since Jeter's last at-bat in September 2014.

Pinkham aims to hit a home run in this at-bat, honoring Jeter's legacy and that of the Pinkham family with a P72 in hand.

"That would be the coolest thing ever," Pinkham said.

Pinkham.JPG
Rochester Honkers catcher Zeke Pinkham chats with an opponent during a game at Mayo Field earlier this season. Pinkham's family is responsible for one of the most famous bats in baseball.

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