Pagan on matching Willie Mays: 'He's my mentor'

Pagan on matching Willie Mays: 'He's my mentor'
September 12, 2012, 5:39 am
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DENVER Records are made to be broken. Angel Pagan was madeto break this one.

All through spring training, Pagan was a daily presence at that familiar round table in the Giants clubhouse, visiting with Willie Mays, totally engaged with every word thatthe Say Hey Kid uttered, asking him one question after another.

When the Giants took the field on opening day, escorted bymembers of the 1962 World Series team, Pagan held out an arm to steady Maysfrom the dugout.

And so it was both fitting, memorable and meaningful that itwas Pagan who stroked a ball to the right-center gap, burst around the bases attop speed and arrived at third base with his 12th triple of theseason.

He tied the Giants San Francisco-era record for triples ina season, set by Mays in the drafty hollows of Candlestick Park in 1960 and matched bySteve Finley in 2006.

A half-century after one legendary center fielder set the record, another center fielder drew even. Pagan has 20 games remaining to make it his own.

But the way Pagan spoke reverently about Mays, calling him, mymentor for the whole year, you get the sense he'd be just fine sharing the record.

How did they come to be so close this spring?

Right away, he asked for the guy who came from New York, said Pagan, who arrived in an offseason trade from the Mets. It wasnt Angel, it was Hey, wheres the guy who came from NewYork? Right after that I introduced myself and we had a great chemistry. Now totie his triples record is something Ill always remember. Its one of the bestdays of my career.

Pagans triple wasnt just gloss for the record books. Itdrove in pinch runner Francisco Peguero and set the stage for Marco Scutarossacrifice fly two important runs in the sixth inning an eventual 9-8 victoryover the Colorado Rockies.

And yes, Pagan agrees with the old saying: A triple reallyis the most exciting play in baseball.

You know what, I think so, Pagan said. It brings a lot ofenergy, a lot of excitement. Any time you get a triple with less than two outs,youre setting the table for a rally. It lets your teammates think aboutkeeping the line moving.

Pagan wasnt aware he matched Mays. Neither was anyone elsein the Giants dugout, it would seem. Pagan said he wasnt aware of it untilGiants manager Bruce Bochy congratulated him afterward. So its unlikely therewill be many souvenirs to save, aside from the lineup card.

Thats all right with Pagan, too. Hell get to share themoment with Mays when the Giants return home next week. Theres nothing betterthan that.

The way Willie has been to me I never saw him play but mydad did and my father in law, Pagan said. Its just like Roberto Clemente.The way they went about their business and the legacy they left is somethingyoud like to follow. Hes a person Id like to have by my side all the time.

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