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Giants' 2012 title honored at White House

Obama hosts event for club in Washington for second time in three years

WASHINGTON -- The Giants' White House visit Monday may prove to be motivational as well as ceremonial.

Occupants of last place in the National League West, the Giants might have needed a reminder that they are indeed the reigning World Series champions who have captured the title twice in three years. Being welcomed to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. by President Barack Obama for the traditional ceremony honoring the Fall Classic victors could restore some of the Giants' self-esteem.

"I think it's good to remember that we are a good ballclub," catcher Buster Posey said. "Sometimes when you're struggling, it's easy to get down on yourself. Maybe a trip like this will remind everybody that we're all good players."

In fact, Giants president and chief executive officer Larry Baer said that Obama tried to provide encouragement while he and his guests convened briefly inside the White House before the ceremony. As Baer related, Obama remarked, "You guys are a second-half club. You did it in 2010; you did it in 2012."

Having greeted the Giants at his residence twice in three years, Obama wants to visit their home and see a game at AT&T Park, according to Baer.

"He's not sure whether he'll do it when he's in office," Baer said. But, Baer added, "He knows that he has a standing invitation."

For the Giants and the members of their organization who were fortunate enough to go on their 2011 trip to see the President, this one had a different feel.

Instead of gathering in the East Room, site of the previous ceremony, participants and spectators watched outdoors on the South Lawn. The event began with players, led by right-hander Ryan Vogelsong, pouring out of the White House's South Portico down twin stairways to ground level. They were followed by Giants front-office officials and members of the team's group of investors.

One Giant was introduced all by himself. That was Willie Mays, who actually needs no introduction. The Hall of Fame center fielder "keeps on looking younger every time I see him," Obama would say minutes later.

After Mays emerged, from stage right came the powerful trio of Baer, manager Bruce Bochy and Obama, who was fresh off having lunch with Hillary Clinton.

Speaking before a couple of hundred guests who sported Giants apparel or some orange-colored accessory, Obama announced the presence of San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi before turning his attention to the Giants. He touched on current events by congratulating Bochy on his 1,500th career managerial victory and referred to the "stellar pitching, smothering defense and timely hitting" that sustained the Giants in 2012 as well as in 2010. He obviously didn't confuse those Giants with the 2013 version.

Obama also highlighted the changes from one championship club to the next. Two years ago, he turned to right-hander Brian Wilson and said simply, "I fear it," referring to the reliever's beard. This time, the President said in a nod to Sergio Romo, "Even though they used a different closer down the stretch, this one still had a beard to fear."

Obama continued to capture the Giants' 2012 flavor by mentioning nicknames.

"We've got the Reverend [Hunter Pence]; we've got Blockbuster [Marco Scutaro]." Obama added, "We've even got new haircuts. Where's Tim?"

Obama looked around in mock bewilderment as right-hander Tim Lincecum, who resumed sporting shorter hair this year, stepped forward.

Obama recounted the road to the World Series by invoking the memory of Matt Cain's perfect game, Posey's surge to the National League Most Valuable Player award, the team's six consecutive victories in postseason elimination games and Pablo Sandoval's three-homer outburst in Game 1 of the World Series.

Naming Mays, Willie McCovey and Gaylord Perry as performers who gilded the franchise's legacy, Obama prompted applause by declaring, "I think it's time to add a few more names to that list, like Lincecum, Cain and Posey."

Obama praised the Giants' involvement in the Bay Area by citing the Junior Giants program and the team's pioneering support of the LGBT community by taping the "It Gets Better" public-service advertisement two years ago.

"So today, we are proud to honor the Giants not only for being champions on the diamond, but also for being champions in the entire San Francisco community as well," Obama concluded. "They represent their city proudly."

The Giants reciprocated by giving Obama a pair of World Series items, an autographed baseball and a commemorative bat.

"I can't read any of those signatures," Obama jokingly said.

Maybe not, but the afternoon's experience likely left a clear impression upon many Giants. Posey, who missed the 2011 White House trip while recovering from his extensive left leg injuries, conveyed this sentiment.

"This is hopefully not a once-in-a-lifetime experience for me," he said.

Chris Haft is a reporter for

San Francisco Giants