Pence turns World Series into his personal playpen
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) His throwing motion is weird, his swing is awkward, his tongue hangs out when he chases flyballs.
Whatever he’s doing, wide-eyed Hunter Pence often looks out of whack.
Which makes the San Francisco right fielder a perfect fit for the quirky ballpark and spirited crowds at home in this World Series. His personality and production make him real popular on the Giants, too.
”I would describe Hunter as a kid that he’s growing up wishing to be a Major League Baseball player one day. That’s how I describe Hunter,” center fielder Gregor Blanco said Sunday before Game 5.
”He’s a guy that his passion for baseball is unbelievable. He’s a guy that he gives everything for his teammates to win a ballgame, and he does whatever it takes to do it. Every run and every hit he gets or every at-bat, he’s so passionate about it. So he’s a guy that’s a great teammate and a great human being,” he said.
Pence came through again Saturday, getting three hits and driving in three runs as the Giants surged past the Kansas City Royals 11-4, tying the Series at two games apiece.
Pence certainly isn’t the model for how a Little League coach would teach a youngster to play. Yet there is no contesting his results.
Through four games, he’d gone 7 for 15 and was hitting .467, best among Series regulars. He led with five RBIs, too, and had scored four runs.
Overall, Pence has reached base safely in 17 straight postseason games, dating to when the Giants won the 2012 championship.
”If I was to say the keys to my success, trying not to do too much sometimes,” he said. ”I think I had struggles when I was younger, and I still have a lot to learn and get better.”
Wherever he goes, be it to and from the ballpark on his favorite motor scooter or otherwise, he attracts attention. With a face full of hair, he’s hard to miss.
Fans at every ballpark where he plays come with signs. Unusual ones.
In Game 1 at Kansas City, Pence’s homer almost landed between two of them – ”Hunter Pence is a Gatherer” and ”Hunter Pence Thinks He’s in Kansas.”
Giants postseason ace Madison Bumgarner said he’s glad Pence is on his side.
”It would be hard to imagine him being a better teammate,” the pitcher said.
Rookie second baseman Joe Pankik echoes that.
”I mean, he’s the guy that’s a vocal leader on the team, and he gets guys fired up,” Panik said.
”And with his play, he’s all-out and gives everything he’s got. It’s spectacular to watch. He’s fun to watch. He’s really big to this team. He’s in the middle of a lot of things, offensively and defensively,” he said.
Pence was busy in Game 4. Batting cleanup, the bushy-haired Texan scored twice and punctuated his big plays with whoops. In the ninth inning, he made a fine grab to take away a hit from Lorenzo Cain.
Moments later, the game was over.
His swings, shouts and sliding catch all done, Pence shuttled from one postgame TV interview to another outside the San Francisco dugout, bumping through a crush of people with every step.
Eventually, he wound up standing smack in the middle of a giant World Series logo. A fitting spot, for sure.
”That’s why we call him `Full Throttle.’ He’s unique,” manager Bruce Bochy said. ”He’s entertaining, we say, on how he does things. But he has a big heart, very passionate about the game.”
”As I’ve said so many times, he’s the lowest-maintenance player I’ve ever had. I just put him in the lineup, and he’s a guy that I would pay to watch play because of his effort every day,” Bochy said.
Getting to play deep into October wasn’t the plan Pence drew up in February. Back then, and now, he said he takes a more basic approach.
”I even go back to just my goals in spring training, literally my goals are to play each game as hard as I can to win,” he said. ”That’s what I write down when I’m writing down my goals for the season.”
”I want to give every single game everything I have to win. And the rest, the numbers will take care of themselves. So I try to focus that simplified.”