Consistent Estrada honored with Giants' Willie Mac Award

September 30th, 2023

SAN FRANCISCO -- When it comes to heart and soul, always has more than enough to go around, even as the Giants have endured a disheartening end to the 2023 campaign.

Estrada was named the recipient of the 43rd annual Willie Mac Award, an honor given to the Giants player who most embodies the inspirational qualities of franchise legend and Hall of Famer Willie McCovey. The words "competitive spirit, ability and leadership" are etched on the commemorative plaque, which was presented to Estrada ahead of Friday's 6-2 loss to the Dodgers.

Estrada joins Brandon Crawford (2016), Mike Yastrzemski ('20), LaMonte Wade Jr. ('21) and Wilmer Flores ('22) as active members of the team who received the Willie Mac Award, as elected by Giants players, club personnel and fans.

Several other previous recipients were in attendance, as well as Estrada's wife and daughter -- who showed off a promising arm while throwing out the first pitch to her dad.

"First of all, I want to say thank you," said Estrada, addressing the Oracle Park faithful in Spanish through interpreter Erwin Higueros. "I feel privileged and honored to receive this award. I want to thank the staff, my teammates and most of all, all of you fans. Because of you, I play very hard on the field."

Estrada has been a bright spot on a Giants club that has fallen well short of expectations in 2023, to the extent that manager Gabe Kapler was dismissed from his role on Friday afternoon. After a scorching hot midsummer stretch catapulted the team to a season-high 13 games above .500 on July 18, San Francisco has steadily plummeted down the stretch, falling from within 1 1/2 games of first place to 20 back of the NL West lead.

With Friday's loss to the Dodgers, the Giants will finish under .500 this season for the first time since doing so for four straight years from 2017-20.

Throughout the Giants' streaky season, Estrada has been one of the club's most consistent players. The 27-year-old has slashed .273/.316/.420 in 118 games in his third year with San Francisco while also ranking among the top second basemen in the Majors from a defensive standpoint.

"He's such the runaway Willie Mac Award winner that I feel like it was kind of anti-climactic for a lot of us because he's earned that from the first day he stepped foot in the Giants' clubhouse," interim manager Kai Correa said. "He's so unassuming. He's so consistent with his work, with the way he responds to success, with the way he responds to failure. His treatment of old players and young players, his interactions with the staff and fans.

"When somebody is that consistent as a professional, it's awesome to see them honored by their peers in front of our fanbase for being that way, and rightfully so."

Despite missing just over a month with a left hand fracture, Estrada leads the Giants in hits (133), doubles (26) and stolen bases (23), all career highs. He is the only Giant to swipe 20 or more bags since 2012 -- when Ángel Pagán (29) and Grégor Blanco (26) both eclipsed the mark -- and he's done so in back-to-back years. Estrada's 14 homers are tied with his personal highwater mark, set in 2022.

Estrada has also emerged as a leader in the Giants' clubhouse, notably calling a team meeting ahead of a slump-busting win over the Braves in late August.He's often not the most vocal one in the room, but more often than not his work ethic speaks for itself.

"Like I've said in the past, I don't play the game to get trophies or any special recognition," Estrada said. "When you think about it, now that my coaches and my teammates have voted for me, then [it] obviously means a lot because it's a reward for my hard work."

Though he was characteristically humble when discussing his own honor, Estrada was more than happy to shower praise on his daughter, Arantza, who delivered a perfect strike to the delight of those watching at Oracle Park.

"It was a good pitch, right down the middle," Estrada said. "She has a good arm. Unfortunately, she's still a little girl. But maybe she wants to be playing baseball in the future."