Legends of Lexington: Hunter Pence
Hunter Pence only spent a total of 80 games in a Legends uniform, but they were all well worth watching. Hunter is arguably one of the most successful players ever to come through Lexington. A member of the Lexington Legends Hall of Fame, Pence played during the 2005 season alongside such players as former Reds pitcher Chad Reineke. In those 80 games, Pence put his name on the Legends all-time single season hitting records list in home runs (2nd, with 25), batting average (2nd, .338), and slugging percentage (1st, .652). Those numbers would eventually land him the Houston Astros Minor League Baseball Player of the Year Award for 2005. Hunter would make his Major League debut with the Astros in April of 2007, leading all National League rookies with 9 triples that season. Two seasons later he would earn a trip representing the Astros in the 2009 MLB All-Star game. From there he would never look back.
Hunter would earn yet another All-Star bid in 2011, only to be traded to the Philadelphia Phillies in July. Spending one year in the city that booed Santa Claus, just like he did in Lexington, Pence again made it well worth it. Instantly becoming a fan favorite, Hunter would finish fourth in the NL in batting average (.314) just behind Ryan Bruan, Matt Kemp, and Jose Reyes. Exactly one year and two days later, the Phillies would trade Hunter to the San Francisco Giants. In what I can only describe as proof of the love and admiration fans had towards Pence, the Phillies would go on with a previously-planned bobblehead promotion featuring Hunter a month after he had been traded. The trade to San Francisco would soon prove to be a blessing to Hunter and his now Giants teammates.
That same season, the Giants would play the Cincinnati Reds in the National League Division Series. Down 0-2, Giants third base coach Tim Flannery noticed Hunter gathering all of his teammates in the dugout just before game 3 in Cincinnati. Flannery quoted Pence, saying he was telling his guys “get in here, everyone get in here … look into each other eyes..now! look into each others eyes, I want one more day with you, it’s the most fun, the best team I have ever been on, and no matter what happens we must not give in, we owe it to each other, play for each other, I need one more day with you guys, I need to see what Ryan Theriot will wear tomorrow, I want to play defense behind Ryan Vogelsong because he’s never been to the playoffs..play for each other not yourself, win each moment, win each inning, it’s all we have left.” The Giants would go on to win three straight against the Reds and move on to the World Seires. They beat the Detroit Tigers in four straight.
Since his pregame speech in the 2012 NLDS, Hunter has earned the nickname “Reverend”. He also earned the the San Francisco Giants “Willie Mac” Award, given to the player that best exemplifies the spirit and leadership that was shown by Willie McCovey throughout his long career. On the day after receiving the award, the Giants signed Hunter to a 5-year, multimillion dollar extension. Since becoming a Giant, Pence has won a World Series and become only the 7th Giants player ever to have 20 homes runs and 20 stolen bases in the same season.
Hunter Pence is a great example of the type of baseball player you can plan on seeing while visiting Whitaker Bank Ballpark. Go Hunter! Go Legends!
By: Russell Abner