Wade earns cherished Willie Mac Award

October 2nd, 2021

SAN FRANCISCO -- When it comes to this iteration of the Giants, a collective of stars and cast-offs alike who have shocked the baseball world en route to 105 wins entering the final weekend of the regular season, there is no shortage of individuals who are deserving of the Willie Mac Award.

Buster Posey, Brandon Crawford and Brandon Belt, the team’s elder statesmen who found the Fountain of Youth, were all deserving. So were Kevin Gausman and Logan Webb, who have anchored the starting rotation. Even Darin Ruf, who quietly has been one of the league’s best hitters since returning from Korea, built a compelling case.

All were valid options. All were logical options. But the 2021 Willie Mac Award winner is , the Giants announced on Friday.

“Having [my parents] out there, being able to see all the past winners and receive this such prestigious honor and reward by the Giants, it was a very special day today,” Wade said.

Following the presentation ceremony, Wade’s mother, Emily, threw out the first pitch, a high, yet accurate throw that didn’t touch dirt. Wade said following the Giants’ 3-0 win over the Padres that his mom took pride in having a better first pitch than UFC fighter Conor McGregor and rapper 50 Cent, who both had notoriously bad throws.

“To have my mom throw out the first pitch was just the icing on the cake,” Wade said. “That’ll be a day that we’ll talk about forever and we’ll never forget.”

The annual honor, named for the late Giants legend Willie McCovey, goes to the team’s most inspirational player. Wade, acquired from the Twins in February, was a compelling candidate for his overall performance alone.

His 18 home runs are a career high and tied for fourth-most on the team. He has provided the Giants with positional versatility, having spent time at every position in the outfield, as well as at first base. He has crushed right-handed pitching (.876 OPS) and excelled as a leadoff hitter. Those are supplementary reasons Wade earned the Willie Mac Award, but not the main ones.

No, Wade won the Willie Mac Award for the same reason he earned the nickname “Late Night” LaMonte: Regardless of venue, regardless of opponent, Wade has come through in winning time.

Wade has delivered six game-tying or go-ahead hits in the ninth inning for the Giants this season, at least one against every opponent in the National League West. The first five came on the road, but on Thursday, Wade finally had his opportunity for a walk-off. Right on cue, he sent the fans home happy.

“We’ve come to expect that from him," manager Gabe Kapler said.

Wade's parents were in the stands for the walk-off on Thursday, though he didn't know it.

“The last few days have definitely very special,” Wade said. “To get the hit [Thursday] and hear the fans and to celebrate with my teammates, that was a very special feeling. And to not even know that my parents were in the stands last night was kind of cool.”

Wade’s numbers in big-time situations are almost difficult to believe. In high-leverage situations, Wade is hitting .407 with an OPS of 1.069. In the ninth inning, Wade is even better, hitting .565 with an OPS of 1.409. If Wade had enough plate appearances to qualify for win probability added, he’d rank 12th, an astonishing feat given how he factors into San Francisco’s platoon formula.