I definitely wish some of the greatest times in our lives could go on forever and somehow, I believe they do. When I sit here and think about my time in San Francisco, it gives me goose bumps.
I’m thankful we can always share that special feeling of when Travis Ishikawa hit a walk-off homer to send us to the World Series, and from my experience I’ve never had a more chaotic, blissful, euphoric, ecstatic moment on a baseball field. The world through my eyes was SHAKING and I can honestly say we (the Giants) were backed by fans believing in us even more than usual.
That was the year we lost the division to the Dodgers and were facing a Wild Card game on the road. I remember wanting to build momentum for a dreadful looking path in the playoffs, one in which we weren’t expected to win a single series. I asked you, the fans, if you were ready for a parade and you so willingly obliged with a “YES! YES! YES! Let’s gooooo….” It gets me fired up just thinking about how crazy I was to say such things, how awesome you were to buy into it, and how the magic “COINCIDENTALLY” happened. ? We brought back a third title in five years. [High five!]
I have grown so much over the six and a half years I was a part of this franchise. One thing I know is that if I didn’t feel comfortable being myself and wasn’t in such an accepting environment I don’t think I would have had the guts to give such an outlandish speech. Thank you for that.
When I sit here and think about my time in San Francisco, it gives me goose bumps.
As Giants we had a bit of a superpower, a secret weapon, so to speak. It was the unity, support, and acceptance which you guys fueled us all with every day. For example, one day my scooter got stolen, something that tends to happen when you leave it unlocked while you’re eating dinner. Not only did social media blow up with pictures from fans telling me they were looking for my scooter, but restaurants also started offering rewards, such as free noodles for a year and free dinners at the best steakhouses. It made such a ruckus that it became a ticker on ESPN … Hunter Pence’s Scooter Stolen … and about three days later on the ticker … Hunter Pence’s Scooter Returned!! LOL. I felt so smothered in support, love, and care that I couldn’t help but smile and hope to repay the favor in some small way. This is just one of the countless behind-the-scenes stories of fan interactions I had throughout my time as a Giant.
Let me share with you two more of them. One day in 2014, during a month in which we had one of the worst records in baseball, I was riding home on my scooter after a loss and feeling kinda down. When I was stopped at a stoplight, a man looked over at me and said, “Hey, you’re Hunter Pence.” I nodded and said, “Yes, I am.” He replied, “I want you to know we believe in you guys. You are going to pull out of this mess and be just fine.” He said it so confidently that it really lifted my spirits. I thanked him and told him that meant a lot. As I rode away I thought to myself, This guy believes in us now in the toughest time. I promise that I’ll be damned if I don’t find a way to believe too!!
Moments like that don’t happen often. It’s a little reminder to everyone of the power of what they say to people. Encouragement is capable of shifting the balance in someone’s day, month, year or lifetime. He impacted me that day in a major way, something I hope to instill more of throughout my lifetime.
My second memorable moment with fans came when I experienced the ULTIMATE WELCOME to becoming a Giant. Sometime in my first three weeks with the Giants after being traded from the Phillies, I was just kinda settling in, and our team that second half was on an absolute roll, opening a big lead in the division over the Dodgers. I went out to dinner one night. As they called my name and they started leading me and my family to our table, one person recognized me and immediately belted out, “LET’S Go GI-ants!” He then stood up and did it a second time, joined by the rest of his table. Shortly thereafter, most everyone in the restaurant stood up and applauded. I was extremely touched and overwhelmingly humbled by this enthusiasm! I took a few pictures with people, waved, and said, “Thank you so much. It’s an absolute pleasure to be here.” I’ll never forget the way that made me feel and how special it was to be a part of. Thank you to that man for that great moment. Thank you for welcoming me to the Giants family.
Now, if I had to pick my favorite moment on the field as a Giant it would be a tie between the Ishikawa homer and a moment in 2012. I vividly remember facing elimination in St. Louis in Game 5, when Zito pitched an absolute gem that brought us home to our horses Vogey and Cainer. On the flight back to San Francisco, the team was feeling the confidence build, and boy, did those guys deliver. I don’t remember the exact inning and I don’t remember the exact score, all I know is it was late in Game 6 against the Cardinals and Vogelsong was on the mound. The sun was setting. The sky was a mix of purple, blue, orange, red, and yellow, a color combo like I had never seen before. Vogey was in that zone that he gets into where you can literally feel his intensity. You could feel he knew exactly where every pitch was going, and you could feel he knew exactly where he wanted to throw it. The entire stadium was chanting, “VOGEY! VOGEY! VOGEY! VOGEY!” and he didn’t even flinch. It was as if he couldn’t even hear it, he was so dialed in. I looked behind me and the fans in right field were shaking the fence so hard I’m pretty sure they broke it and easily could have charged the field in the middle of the game.
It was a moment that I’ll never forget. I took a mental note of being in complete AWE. These memories are a small sample of the beautiful journey we shared for about seven years. I can’t express to you how THANKFUL I am, how much JOY I got playing here, and how FORTUNATE I feel to have been a Giant for so long. I wish there never had to be a “so long,” but I’m grateful for all the time we had. I hope you felt a tiny bit of the joy I experienced out there. I love you all and always will.
Your good friend,