Why Hunter Pence felt at home in San Francisco after Giants-Phillies trade

Staff report


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sports.yahoo.com

How San Francisco became home for Pence after blockbuster deal originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

SAN FRANCISCO — A few hours after the 2012 trade deadline, Tim Lincecum stood in front of his locker and spent several minutes explaining to a large crowd of reporters how difficult it always had been to face Hunter Pence. As he talked about Pence’s unique style, Lincecum spotted something out of the corner of his eye. He looked past a reporter and saw Pence settling into the next locker.

“Oh,” Lincecum said, laughing. “There he is!”

The two shook hands and chatted for a few seconds, and then both resumed with their late-night activities. Lincecum had just dominated the New York Mets and young budding star Matt Harvey, and reporters had more questions. Then they all turned and faced Pence, one of the biggest deadline acquisitions in franchise history. He was thrilled to be a Giant, but the day had included one mild disappointment.

The Phillies were across the country in Washington, D.C. that day, and Pence was in a cab to the ballpark when Philadelphia’s general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. called to inform him of the trade. In a move that makes all the sense in the world given how the next few years went, Pence’s first thought was to find a way into the Giants’ lineup that night.

“I just packed up my bags, said thank you, booked my own flight, flew over,” Pence said during an interview that will air on Monday’s “Giants Talk” Podcast. “I was trying to get there for the game. At that time, my mentality was that I play every single day.”

That became crystal clear to the Giants and their fans once Pence settled in. And few have ever settled in as a San Francisco Giant the way Pence did.

He was an All-Star on the field, so energetic and durable that manager Bruce Bochy nicknamed him “Full Throttle.” He became a leader in the clubhouse, with his rousing speeches helping to push the Giants to a title that fall. For years afterward, it was Pence who took the microphone when players gathered on the field after the final game or during an important moment.

Pence became a fan favorite, and years after he was last an everyday player at Oracle Park, his No. 8 jersey remains one of the most visible ones in the seats. He became a member of the community, visiting local coffee shops, planting trees and riding his scooter up and down the Embarcadero every day. A native of Texas, Pence and his wife, Alexis, have made San Francisco their home, and he is a regular at team events and on Giants broadcasts.

Pence embraced all that it meant to be a San Francisco Giant. On Saturday at Oracle Park, the organization will make sure those contributions are never forgotten.

Pence will become the 55th player to go up on the organization’s Wall of Fame, and, appropriately, the man who once led 40,000 in a “Yes! Yes! Yes!” chant will become the first to be inducted with an on-field ceremony.

“I loved being a Giant, I love San Francisco. It’s part of the fabric and fiber of my soul,” Pence said. “This city means the world to me, and the organization. I’m just tremendously humbled and honored and overjoyed that I get to be a part of this great storied franchise.”

The plaques are reserved for players who spent a minimum of nine seasons with the Giants, five seasons with an All-Star selection, or won three titles. Pence qualified under the second path, but even though he was already 29 when he was traded to the Giants, he very nearly checked the other two as well.

Pence played eight seasons in San Francisco, signing a lucrative extension before he could hit free agency and then returning in 2020 for one last 17-game run after a comeback season with the Texas Rangers. He won two titles with the Giants, hitting .390 in 11 World Series games.

From the moment he shook hands with Lincecum, who shared an agent with him, Pence seemed comfortable in San Francisco.

“Good to have you,” Lincecum said to him that night.

“Good to see you, man,” Pence responded, a big smile on his face.

After he spoke to reporters and changed out of the clothes he had originally put on for a cab ride to Nationals Park, Pence sought out familiarity. He got a workout in, preparing his body for the next day’s game.

RELATED: Why Pence believes non-contending teams still must play hard

Pence was in the lineup a day after the deadline and basically didn’t come out of it for the next two and a half seasons. He started 331 consecutive games for the Giants at one point, finally resting after they had clinched a playoff spot in 2014.

That trade turned into an all-time heist for the Giants, who sent Nate Schierholtz, Tommy Joseph and Seth Rosin to Philadelphia. For Pence, it was a career-altering day and he took full advantage, making San Francisco his home.

“I think I really align with just the fabric of the city and just the thought process of the fan base,” he said. “I met my wife here [and] got married here. I love the community, I love the people. I owe a lot to the city for allowing me to be myself. The free spirit, the free-thinking mindset, it really was a whole new perspective. Growing up in Texas is a little bit different. I love Texas and I’m very grateful for my time there, but yeah, I just feel really comfortable and I felt like I was able to be myself here.”

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