ORACLE PARK — When Hunter Pence took a scooter spin around the then-AT&T Park warning track last September following the Giants’ home finale, it was thought to not only be a goodbye to San Francisco, but to Major League Baseball.
Last year’s Willie Mac Award winner, Pence was a beloved presence in right field during his six and a half years with the Giants, serving as a key piece of two of the club’s three World Series teams, but his production had fallen off severely, and he was given a heartfelt sendoff.
After reinventing himself this offseason, he hooked on with the Texas Rangers, and on Thursday, he was announced as an American League All-Star starter at designated hitter.
“I couldn’t be happier for Hunter,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said on Thursday. “What he did this winter, I mean, you’re talking a guy that was determined to find a swing, change his swing, he goes down to winter ball, works his tail off. He’s got enough money. He didn’t need to do that. We’ve talked about his passion for the game, and how hungry he’s always stayed, and he wants to keep playing.”
After completely re-engineering his swing from the bottom up and spending the winter in the Dominican Winter League, Pence is hitting .294 for Texas, with a slash line of .294/.353/.608 — his best since his All-Star season of 2011, when he slashed .314/.370/.502 for Houston and Philadelphia.
His 15 homers are the most he’s hit since he hit 20 over the entire 2014 season for the Giants, and he already has 48 RBIs in 55 games. If he keeps pace in the second half (Texas has played 80 games), he may very well crack 100, something he’s done just once in his career, in 2012.
“For him to get it, and have the type of season that he’s having, it’s well-deserved,” Bochy said. “I think it’s what great athletes can do. They find a way to find their game again, and at his age, finding that so-called Fountain of Youth to play the way he did a few years ago, that’s really impressive.”
This story has been updated to reflect Pence being selected an All-Star starter. A previous version said he was among three finalists.