SAN FRANCISCO — Leave it to Hunter Pence to find a new way to do something on the baseball field.
On Saturday, two years into retirement, that meant bursting through a cloud of smoke on a scooter before the Giants hosted the Dodgers, as the grand entrance to the on-field ceremony unveiling his plaque on the Wall of Fame.
Madison Bumgarner once entered on horseback. Brandon Belt began this season by riding in on a boat. But in uniquely Pence fashion, the quirky and beloved two-time World Series champion rode his motorized scooter around the warning track, firing up the crowd, before smoothly dismounting and taking his seat at the center of the infield.
Turns out, it was the same set of wheels presented to Pence in 2018. His wife, Alexis, he said, “held on to it for that moment.”
“It’s still riding pretty good,” Pence said from the press box after the 40-minute pregame ceremony, which he said was less emotional than on Friday, when he reunited with his former teammates and coaches the first time.
“I did cry a little, just getting emotional with how much support I have,” Pence said. “That was part of my message.”
Appropriately for Pence, the showman, his plaque was the 55th to be hung on the King Street facade but the first to be presented in an on-field pregame ceremony.
Pence’s scooter took center stage Saturday afternoon, not unlike its presence during his eight years here. Team president Larry Baer recited an anecdote from the night Pence signed his extension in 2013. It was 2 a.m., and the team had an afternoon game the next day. Offered a ride home, Pence declined. He hopped on his scooter instead.
Baer, who ended his speech by reading the inscription on Pence’s newly-hung plaque, followed a list of speakers who joined in on the love fest for the player who endeared himself to San Francisco fan base with his high socks, his hard swings, his give-everything-all-the-time effort, his inspirational speeches and, most of all, two world championships.
Michael Morse reminisced about hitting bombs in batting practice and Pence’s bear-hug greeting when he arrived at spring training in 2014. Mike Krukow said Pence burst down the base line “like his hair was on fire.” George Kontos, who led a “Yes! Yes! Yes!” chant in a throwback to Pence’s 2014 speech, said Pence, “defies the amount of milligrams of caffeine one person can take” — which Pence promptly confirmed upon taking the microphone.
“Everyone says play it cool, but I’ve had too much caffeine,” he began his 10-minute speech.
Saturday’s coffee count for Pence, who with his wife recently launched their own coffee company: a full pot, two shots of espresso and half a cup.
“They’re right,” Pence said afterward. “I drink a lot of coffee.”
Rather than ride down memory lane, Pence used his time with the microphone to single out each of the speakers who preceded him, calling Gregor Blanco “a great man” and humorously praising Kontos’ pitching style (“You didn’t throw very hard, but you were vert smart. Slider away, slider away. You got me”).
Before closing with a call to plant trees and clean up the San Francisco Bay, Pence had another message for the fanbase.
“I wasn’t the best player, but I was all heart,” Pence said to the crowd. “When I took the field, I was all heart. I don’t care if you’re a plumber, a doctor, an artist, a lawyer — if you put your heart into it, people will feel it. Stadiums will be full. You’ll look into the mirror and you’ll probably be a champion.”
However, it was impossible to ignore the backdrop to the ceremony: a whole lot of Dodger blue in a ballpark that won’t host playoff baseball this year.
Pence addressed that, too.
“The Giants are coming back next year. They’re gonna finish strong. They’re gonna get better because of this season,” he said toward the end of his speech. Afterward, he elaborated more on why he believes in a turnaround for a team fighting to finish at .500 after winning 107 games last year.
Pence singled out Carlos Rodón, who can opt out of his contract and become a free agent, as an important piece to bring back. “He’s an impact player and you need pitching,” he said.
“I believe they were a lot closer than it came out this year,” Pence said. “I think there are some small things that are going to get tightened up, and I also believe they’re going to go add some. … I know that they’re smart and they know what they’re doing. I’m excited for them.”
Go to Source
Author: Evan Webeck