Soon after receiving honor, right fielder appears close to new contract
SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants honored right fielder Hunter Pence with the Willie Mac Award before Friday night's game against the San Diego Padres. Later, Pence appeared closer to receiving something even more coveted: a new contract.
After Friday's 7-3 victory over San Diego, Pence and club president Larry Baer provided a rare sight by standing almost in the middle of the clubhouse as they talked business. A few overheard remarks by Pence, including "I'm sure we'll get something done" and "I'm going to let them deal with it because that's what I pay them for," indicated that he and Baer were discussing a deal.
They shook hands upon concluding their talk. Pence then confirmed that he and Baer were essentially conducting negotiations.
"They're about to get back to me," Pence said. "So we're either really close or really far away."
Asked if he thought the Giants wanted to reach an agreement before Sunday's conclusion of the regular season, Pence said, "I'll know shortly. Let's just say we're talking, I guess."
Pence has plenty of bargaining power. He hit his career-high 26th homer in Friday's third inning, complementing his team-high 35 doubles, 94 RBIs, 90 runs scored and 22 steals, another personal best, in 25 tries.
But he captured the Willie Mac Award for reasons that transcend statistics.
The award, named for Giants legend Willie McCovey, is given annually to the club's most inspirational player. The winner is primarily determined by a vote among players. Coaches, members of the athletic training staff, fans and McCovey himself also cast ballots.
"To be voted in by your teammates is the ultimate honor as a player," Pence said. "I think the smile on my face shows what's going on inside."
During his acceptance speech, Pence cited the ardor he reserves for his teammates. "Buster, I know you don't like when I say I love you," Pence began one sentence, referring to catcher Buster Posey and prompting laughter from the AT&T Park audience.
Pence also poked fun at his quirky mannerisms. "God, you didn't give me much grace or real style," he said, "but you gave me a chance."
Indeed, Pence has made the most of his baseball opportunities, appearing in at least 156 games in each of his six full Major League seasons. He has outdone himself this year, playing all but 16 innings so far. Pence will become the first Giant since the franchise moved to San Francisco in 1958 to start every regular-season game if he is in the lineup for the team's remaining two games against San Diego.
"He's really amazing," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said of Pence, 30. "I don't know of another player I've ever had who played every game -- not just played, but the way he plays and the intensity that he plays with. He's so popular in that clubhouse. He's full of energy. He's a baseball player. He just loves the game. The passion's there every day. He doesn't back off. ... This is a well-deserved award."
McCovey, who presented the award, agreed. After receiving a prolonged standing ovation from the crowd, the Hall of Fame first baseman called Pence "one of my favorite players." Referring to Pence's impending free agency, McCovey added, "I know, along with me, you wish that he'll be back next year."
Pence and the Giants just might settle that issue extremely soon.