Pence feels good about momentum over final month
Hunter Pence clubbed his 26th home run and picked up the Willie Mac Award on Friday night. (AP)
SAN FRANCISCO – The Willie Mac Award might not be the only token of appreciation that Hunter Pence receives from the Giants this weekend.
In a highly unorthodox scene following the Giants’ 7-3 victory over the San Diego Padres Friday night, Baer and Pence held a long discussion within earshot of reporters in which they appeared to be discussing a new contract.
Baer joked and said he was merely congratulating Pence on the Willie Mac Award. But Pence, after apologizing for making the media wait, confirmed that he indeed is awaiting a response from the club. And he sensed that something could get done very soon.
“They’re about to get back to me, seriously,” Pence said. “So we’re either really close or really far away.”
Like, close as in he could reach an agreement before everyone scatters for the winter on Sunday?
“Yeah,” Pence said. “I’ll know shortly. We’ll just say we’re talking, I guess.”
Earlier Friday, Giants GM Brian Sabean called re-signing Pence the first action item among the “heavy lifting” the club hoped to achieve before the free-agency period begins five days after the World Series. After hopefully reaching an agreement with Pence, they planned to turn attention to Tim Lincecum and Javier Lopez.
Pence’s value has never been greater to the Giants – and not just because he hit his career-best 26th home run to help Ryan Vogelsong, another former Willie Mac winner, end a difficult season with a victory.
Pence’s speech hit all the right notes – and it was a challenge for him, since he’s more of a small-group orator.
“I was so nervous, oh my gosh,” Pence said. “Words are tough to express how honored and how humbled and how grateful I am. I think the smile on my face showed you what was going on inside.”
His teammates gave him a sunflower seed shower in the dugout, a nod to his pregame speeches that turned the dugout into a revival tent before every postseason game last October.
“I was definitely on could nine going into the outfield,” he said. “My fans and my teammates really inspired me there.”
Giants manager Bruce Bochy called Pence a fitting choice to be named their most inspirational player and receive the award named after Willie McCovey. The manager revealed that by the time the All-Star break rolled around, it got harder and harder to try to give Pence a day off and break his consecutive games streak. There was one game at Colorado on Aug. 26 when Pence had the wind knocked out of him when he crashed against the right field wall.
"I was really set on giving him the next day off," said Bochy, who got talked into letting Pence play. "To go that hard every game, it's pretty unbelievable. There aren't many guys who can toe the line like he can."
With two more starts, Pence will become the first Giant since Alvin Dark in 1954 to start every regular-season game in a season. His streak of 169 consecutive starts is the longest in the National League.
There was a surprise for Pence, too. The Giants flew in Pence’s mother, Gail, and his brother, from Texas to be there for the ceremony. The club gave him the news after batting practice that he was this year’s honoree, and then he met up with his family before the game.
They were sneaky about it, too.
“To get my mom’s phone number, they told me they had a bracelet thing made from the World Series,” Pence said. “They got me.”
They hope to have him for much longer.