Flores named winner of '22 Willie Mac Award

October 1st, 2022

SAN FRANCISCO -- For Giants fans, the opening chords of "I'll Be There for You" by The Rembrandts are synonymous with more than just the iconic sitcom "Friends." When that song blares out from the Oracle Park speakers, it means one thing: Wilmer Flores is coming to the plate.

No other song so perfectly encapsulates what Flores has brought to the Giants in his first three seasons in San Francisco. The 31-year-old infielder has been a beacon of steadiness and consistency for the Giants through the ups and downs of the 2022 season, and his efforts have been rewarded with one of the club's most prestigious honors.

Flores was named the recipient of the 2022 Willie Mac Award ahead of the Giants' series opener against the D-backs on Friday night. Named for San Francisco legend Willie McCovey, the award is given annually to the Giants player who best embodies McCovey's "competitive spirit, ability and leadership," as voted by San Francisco players, club personnel and fans.

"I think he's among the most universally respected players in our clubhouse, as well as in the game," manager Gabe Kapler said. "I think he's respected for his consistency and for his dedication to the San Francisco Giants -- and also to tuning his teammates up. And for that reason, everybody is thrilled for Wilmer in this moment."

Fourteen previous Willie Mac Award winners attended Friday's pregame ceremony, including current Giants players Brandon Crawford (2016), Mike Yastrzemski (2020) and LaMonte Wade Jr. (2021), as well as D-backs left-hander Madison Bumgarner (2014). Upon receiving his plaque, Flores thanked his teammates, San Francisco's coaching staff and, of course, the fans.

"You're always cheering, doesn't matter if we're winning or losing. I always feel you behind us, and that means a lot," Flores said. "It makes me want to come back stronger next year."

Even better than winning the award? Seeing two unexpected faces among the fans in attendance, as the Giants flew in Flores' parents for the ceremony.

"I didn't know they were here," Flores said with a wide smile, waving as he spotted them in the crowd. He later caught the ceremonial first pitch tossed by his father, Wilmer Flores Sr.

Though Flores had a down September, he's put together an impressive body of work over the 2022 campaign. Entering Friday, Flores led the Giants in appearances, playing in 146 of their 156 games. His career-high 70 RBIs were tied for the most on the team, and he ranked second among Giants players in doubles (27), home runs (19) and walks (56) -- all career highs.

But the numbers alone do not explain why Flores has become a clubhouse staple and a fan favorite. Flores' typical unshakeable demeanor has not only kept him collected and primed to deliver in high-stakes situations, but it has also provided a great example for his many young teammates.

"I think baseball requires a degree of steadiness and stoicism," Kapler said. "A level of calm, a level of perspective, a level of experience. A level of 'I've seen this before, I've been around it, it's not taking me off course when things get hard. I expect it to be challenging at times.' … In that way, he's a perfect role model."

Flores' value in the box score and beyond is precisely why the Giants signed him to a two-year extension (which also includes a player option for 2025) in early September.

That guarantees that Flores will continue to be there for his teammates for seasons to come.