SAN FRANCISCO -- Don't look at Nick Hundley's statistics to determine his value to the Giants. Consider his character.Hundley shows up for work each day ready to work. A 97-loss season that the Giants frown upon hasn't wiped the smile from the backup catcher's face. His zeal was rewarded before
SAN FRANCISCO -- Don't look at Nick Hundley's statistics to determine his value to the Giants. Consider his character.
Hundley shows up for work each day ready to work. A 97-loss season that the Giants frown upon hasn't wiped the smile from the backup catcher's face. His zeal was rewarded before Friday's 8-0 victory over the Padres when he received the Willie Mac Award -- the Giants' highest individual honor, which is tantamount to being named the team's most inspirational player.
The winner of the award is selected primarily by a vote among Giants players, coaches and athletic training staff, as well as manager Bruce Bochy and McCovey himself. Online balloting among fans counted as one vote.
• Previous Willie Mac Award winners
In brief remarks made to fans over AT&T Park's public-address system during an on-field pregame ceremony, Hundley said he was "overwhelmed" to receive the award and stand alongside its previous winners -- and become forever linked with McCovey, the Hall of Fame first baseman and hugely popular San Francisco legend.
"That was incredible," Hundley said after the game. "I couldn't really get my heart rate down the first couple of innings, my adrenaline was pumping so much."
Hundley added that the presence of his wife, two daughters and parents, who flew here to witness the ceremony as guests of the Giants, made the experience "exponentially better."
The Giants signed Hundley as a free agent last offseason because they coveted his power and respected his knowledge of the National League West, which he accumulated while playing for San Diego and Colorado.
Hundley has met the Giants' expectations. Of his 69 hits, 32 have gone for extra bases. He has appeared in 100 games, as Bochy never hesitated to use him when Buster Posey needed a rest or shifted to first base.
But it was Hundley's attitude that the Giants appreciated most.
"There's intangibles that go with this game that other guys feed off of," right-hander Jeff Samardzija said, referring to Hundley. "Some guys are energy, emotional guys. Some guys are pretty flatlined and show up every day and do their jobs, so you need those guys that come here and have energy every day and just love to be here. That stuff is contagious throughout the team."
"For him to win it in his first year with the team says everything," second baseman Joe Panik said. "Good day, bad day -- he's here to pick you up. I can't say enough good things about him."
"He comes to the park every day with the same attitude and enthusiasm," Bochy said. "Even when he's not playing, he's on the bench watching the game, pulling for the guys, making noise, supporting them. It's fun to see a guy who shows up the way he does every day and has a passion for the game that he does."
Several former Giants who have won the Willie Mac Award since its inception in 1980 attended the pregame ceremony, including Jack Clark, Larry Herndon, Dave Dravecky, Mike "Tiny" Felder, Ellis Burks, Marvin Benard, Andres Torres and two-time winner Mike Krukow, who served as master of ceremonies.
Current players and coaches who won the award also took part in the ceremony, such as Posey, Shawon Dunston, Player Page for Matt Cain, Mark Gardner, Brandon Crawford, Hunter Pence, Javier Lopez, Madison Bumgarner and Ryan Vogelsong.
Cain, who has announced his retirement after 13 seasons with the Giants and will make his final appearance in a start Saturday, nearly stole the show as he drew a tremendous ovation from the crowd upon being introduced.
Chris Haft has covered the Giants since 2005, and for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat and listen to his podcast.