Baer: 'You want to see the effort Hunter puts out every game'
In 161 game this season, Hunter Pence is hitting .282/.339/.484 with 27 home runs, 96 RBI and 22 stolen bases. (AP)
SAN FRANCISCO – Hunter Pence’s grandfather left him with a piece of advice.
“One of the things my grandfather told me, the few things he left me with, he said, `Work hard and don’t complain,’” Pence said. “They pay me a lot of money to play baseball so I’m going to enjoy every minute of it.”
The Giants will pay their inspirational, irreplaceable, indefatigable right fielder $90 million over the next five seasons, after making his contract official on Sunday. Fittingly, the deal was announced on the day that Pence started for the 162nd consecutive game this season – making him the first Giant to start every regular-season game since Alvin Dark in 1954.
Rare is the player who feels humbled on the day the money truck backs up his driveway.
“I understand the responsibility of what comes along with this,” said Pence, who gets a full no-trade clause and will be paid $16 million next season with annual salaries of $18.5 million after that. “It’s a pretty big investment and it’s not going to be taken lightly by me.
“I’m extremely happy, extremely motivated. I don’t think there’s any part of me that will be stagnant or OK with where I am today. I want to become a better ballplayer. I want to find a way not only to be better myself but help everyone in the organization become better ballplayers.”
The Giants and Pence began discussions roughly a month ago and talks accelerated in recent days as the organization wanted to announce a contract before the regular-season finale.
Pence was just a few weeks from becoming a first-time free agent in a buyer’s market for hitting. But once the Giants went to a fifth year, he was willing to take it without shopping it around.
“There were a lot of things that came into this decision to get this done before going to free agency,” Pence said. “First and foremost, I realized how brilliant this organization is. I know they’re here to win. There’s a hunger here and a confidence and a championship mentality.
“What’s going on in this organization, the minds, what’s going on behind the scenes, I believe in 100 percent. I believe in how they handle everything. The opportunity they give us to win is second to none. So I look forward to the next five years and giving them everything I’ve got.”
Pence also credited the club’s relationship with the fans and community for making “an impact that’s more special than anything I’ve been a part of and hopefully I can grow a little stronger in the community now that I have time.”
Pence will make an annual $50,000 contribution to Giants-related charities under terms of the contract. The full no-trade clause was especially important to Pence, who has been dealt twice at the July 31 deadline.
Giants CEO Larry Baer called re-signing Pence “a very top priority for the organization. He’s truly a model for how to conduct yourself on the field, and also the way he conducts himself off the field. When you’re doing a deal of this length you want to be able to check off that box and Hunter does it as well as any player we’ve ever encountered.”
What about those last-minute and oddly public negotiations in the clubhouse after Thursday’s game?
“We were talking about the Willie Mac Award and how much it meant to me,” said Pence, in his best deadpan.
Aside from Pence, nobody was more thrilled than Bruce Bochy, who beamed as he said, “I have my right fielder back. … I don’t know how we could have replaced what Hunter does. He’s a manager’s dream.”
Then Bochy drew the biggest laughs at the news conference while paying Pence a compliment:
“If I had a kid and he came out to watch a ballgame, I’d say, `Watch Hunter Pence. Watch how he plays the game, the passion that he plays with.’”
Turning to Pence, Bochy said, “Now I’ll be honest, I may not have him watch you throw, or your on-deck swings. I’m just talking about how you play the game. And from my perspective I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your effort, not just every game but every pitch.
“I just put his name in the lineup. No drama with this guy. He just wants to play baseball.”
And in the 162nd game, Pence hoped to play all nine innings.