Pence's rally cry brought out Giants' inner warrior
Pregame speeches provided inspiration needed for NLCS-bound San Francisco
CINCINNATI -- Had the Giants lost to the Reds in Game 3 of the National League Division Series on Tuesday, Hunter Pence's fiery clubhouse speech, followed by a team-wide rugby-like scrum in the dugout, would be a mere footnote to a series that ended with a big, dull thud.
Instead, his pregame rant -- "Look into each other eyes! Play for each other! Win each moment! Win each inning!" -- has not only become the Giants' rallying cry. It's also taken on a life of its own, and there are several people in the Giants' clubhouse who truly feel it made the difference between advancing to the National League Championship Series and heading home to go fishing.
Pence's first impromptu speech arrived sometime before the first pitch of Game 3. The Giants won, so Pence gathered the team for a repeat performance. The Giants won, and ... well, you get the point.
"It got everybody fired up," reliever George Kontos said. "Nobody wanted to go home."
Similar to last year's "Happy Flight" mantra of the World Series champion Cardinals, "Look into each other's eyes" may be the rallying cry of this year's Giants, which, if used in proper context -- and while screaming -- can be a very motivating phrase among teammates. Thanks to a stunning comeback against a Reds club that had a 2-0 series lead before it even set foot on its home turf, the Giants have even more time to make eye contact with each other. They're headed to the NL Championship Series for the second time in three years as a unified bunch oozing with momentum and confidence.
Two years ago, Giants manager Bruce Bochy, during a time when his team wasn't playing so well, sat the players down to watch a dramatic scene of the movie "Braveheart" with hopes they'd draw inspiration. We know how that one ended up -- with a November World Series parade. While this year's ending is still yet to be written, one thing is clear: these Giants like to turn little gestures into big motivators.
"That day it happened," Pence said of the first scrum, "we were so fired up before [batting practice] that I wanted to make sure we kept that energy when the game started. I was like, after they announce us, I just wanted to get everyone together, and here we go. We're all in."
It's safe to assume Pence's pregame speeches and huddles will last for as long as the Giants do. Presumably, the script won't change much. After all, how many different ways can you say generally the same thing? Should Pence try to mix it up?
"I told Hunter, you better get creative," reliever Jeremy Affeldt joked. "You know what though, he gets so amped up, he starts bouncing around everywhere. I think he could just start mumbling. and we'll just get excited, because he's bouncing around."
Apparently, Pence has come up with some new words -- or should we say, grunting noises -- to fire up the troops.
"He starts some 'Hoo hoo hoo' chant and we're like, 'Yeah, it sounds good, too,'" Affeldt said. "We can probably just stick with that."
Added Matt Cain: "It kind of takes you back to high school, when you're younger. We're just having fun. It's great. It just kind of gets everyone together."
Such is life for a winning ballclub. Everything is fresh and funny; every teammate is special. While most Giants players heaped praise on all teammates during the postgame celebration, invariably, the conversation always led back to the player that joined this team at the Trade Deadline: Pence.
"Big. Huge," Angel Pagan said of Pence's vocal contributions. "Encouraging, very motivating. We went out there and we felt like warriors, trying to hunt people. I don't know how to explain it. There so much energy and so important for us to gather us together, for us to come through. These guys have been so special to me. To accomplish this, I can't explain. It's in my heart and I'm very happy for them."