By Doug Bruzzone
Special to S.F. Examiner
AT&T PARK — In a pregame ceremony Friday night, the Giants awarded closer Will Smith the coveted Willie Mac Award.
Smith missed all of 2017 after undergoing Tommy John surgery and missed the first month of this season while finishing his rehab from his elbow injury. He came back strong, posting a 1.90 ERA in 52 innings, striking out 70 and walking just 14, solidifying the closer’s role after Hunter Strickland injured his hand in an altercation with a door.
“It’s really something special to me,” Smith said. “My teammates, I love those guys to death. They’re awesome. They got me through a tough time last year. It’s something I’ll never forget. Thank you.”
Since 1980, the Giants have bestowed the Willie Mac Award — named for Giants legend Willie McCovey — upon the most inspirational player on the team, as voted by players, coaches, trainers and now fans.
Hunter Pence didn’t mince words before the game when asked about winning the award in 2013, saying it was,”One of the best moments of my life.”
“It’s a tremendous honor,” Pence continued. “Willie Mac’s one of the most beautiful souls and best men I’ve ever met. He’s a legend to this organization. To be honored by your teammates, fans, and the likes of him is a tremendous honor.”
Catcher Nick Hundley, the 2017 winner, emphasized the Willie Mac Award is special because of its namesake.
“To be associated with somebody that’s done so many good things, not only on the field but off the field, Willie is really special,” Hundley said. “That’s one of the highlights of my career for sure.”
Manager Bruce Bochy thought that the series against the Los Angeles Dodgers would be a good test for his banged up team.
“We can play with anybody,” he said. “Means something to players. Means something to fans. It’ll be big for these guys to play well, compete well, and find a way to win.”
Bochy also mentioned that he thinks Gregor Blanco could be a great coach someday if he chooses to, praising his personality and ability to adapt to multiple roles as a player, both good indicators of a successful coaching career.