I don’t have many friends that love baseball. They love other sports, which means they get the occasional baseball nugget as a result of browsing sports sites or watching ESPN. Whenever these baseball nuggets are big enough or viral enough to penetrate their non-baseball sphere I am the one they turn to. Usually it’s a simple question, “how does the wild card work?” or perhaps they are presenting a talking point, “Bryce Harper’s hair is pretty cool.” Anyone that is the lone “baseball guy” in their circle can probably relate.
Over the years my status as “baseball guy” has left me with a lot of inquiries about my favorite player. The favorite player being Hunter Pence who has made a habit of popping up in viral ways, especially in the post-season when more casual eyes are floating around.
“Oh yea, that’s Hunter Pence. He’s awesome.”
That’s a good guess at what my response is when one of these “who’s that weirdo in right field” type inquiries occurs. I’m always eager to share my love of Hunter Pence because he isn’t the typical sports hero. He’s the perfect mix of weird, good and humble that I think everyone strives for and no one achieves.
As his career with the Giants draws to a close and I watch his final at bats I’m left reminiscing about all the amazing moments and memories that I’ve been asked about over the years courtesy of the strange happenings of Hunter Pence.
Who’s that guy with the super ugly swing?
That would be Hunter Pence. And it’s not just his swing, almost everything he does is on the ugly spectrum.
Now, remember that it’s easy to look terrible at baseball. If there is a Venn diagram of “looks terrible while doing baseball stuff” and “is good at baseball” most of society would fall into the first circle, while major leaguers would fall into the latter. Somehow Pence is the middle portion.
This is the middle portion:
Even with all that clunkyness holding him back he still has no holes in his game. His rusty trebuchet of an arm is still good(+10 runs over his career), as is his speed(+10.8 base running runs) and of course his nonsensical swing works as well. Pence has been 15% better than league average as a hitter in his career and is the only Giant in the last 5 seasons to hit 20 homers. No wonder kids want to learn how to hit from this guy.
Who’s that guy that eats pizza with a fork?
Back in 2014 Hunter Pence was the victim of a ruthless and unfounded attack about how he eats pizza and prepares his hot dogs.
The avalanche continued for days as fans of opposing teams began unearthing more of Pence’s deepest and darkest secrets: his inability to shuffle cards or parallel park, his preference for baths over showers and even his refusal to “repeat” after lathering and rinsing.
Hunter Pence took it all in stride and didn’t even deny the charges. He made a semi-cringey video with Kinda Funny and he even got the last laugh during the World Series by hitting a first inning home run in Kansas City with the ball landing right next to a sign that questioned Pence’s geographical knowledge.
Did you see that swing that hit the ball three times?
If Hunter Pence is the king of turning something ugly into a positive outcome than his bases clearing double in game 7 of the 2012 NLCS is his Magnum Opus. Hunter Pence hit a broken bat line drive up the middle that appeared to be the result of Cardinal’s shortstop, Pete Kozma, breaking the wrong direction. It wasn’t until a slo-mo replay of the swing did we see that the Broken Bat Gods were responsible for this hit. Praise Be.
Fox sports had been liberally using it’s new high-tech camera all post season and this swing from Pence was an obvious opportunity to showcase its power. This swing was baseball’s version of the David Tyree catch even down to a bewildered and semi-bored Buck on the call as he described something nobody has ever seen with the poise of a history professor.
Who’s the guy that rides his scooter to the ballpark?
Back before electric scooters were hip and all over city streets, Hunter Pence was riding one. It was his vehicle of choice when traveling to and from the ballpark and therefore was constantly spotted throughout San Francisco on his scooter. Seeing a star baseball player riding around town on a scooter is quite a sight and gave Hunter a level of approachableness that made him an instant fan-favorite.
The virality of Pence riding his scooter reached its peak when his scooter was tragically stolen, creating a chaotic few days where the results on the field took a back seat as the whole city searched for the scooter.
It was this situation that brought to the surface just how much Hunter Pence meant to the Giants fan base.
This guy that has given us so much these past 2 years now needs MY help!? Well shoot, I better go find this damn scooter!
A few days later it was returned to AT&T park and in typical Hunter Pence fashion he signed it and then auctioned it off to charity, because he had already bought a replacement.
Who’s the guy you want your kids to watch?
This one isn’t really based on one event and it’s certainly not a real question any of my friends have every asked. It’s simply the culmination of all the stories above. It isn’t hard to find instances of Hunter Pence doing things on a field that are rare. I’m not talking about feats of athleticism or strength. I’m talking about hustle. Something everyone can do but few actually do. It’s easy to hustle on a triple or when cutting off a ball in the gap. But how about a routine groundball back to the pitcher?
I’m not sure there is a better video to explain who Hunter Pence is as a baseball player. It’s these actions that have made him so beloved among each of the three fan bases he has played for. Even this season when he has a career low OPS of .600 He still gets cheered feverishly every time he steps to the plate.
He’s earned every clap and kind word through his hustle, positive energy and least importantly his stellar play.