Pence happy to stay with 'brilliant' Giants
Outfielder spurned free agency to sign five-year contract extension
SAN FRANCISCO -- Giants fans clearly received the message club management intended to send by reaching its speedy contract agreement with right fielder Hunter Pence .
When Pence loped onto the field at AT&T Park for stretching before Sunday's 7-6 walk-off victory over the Padres, the attentive crowd reacted to his presence with noisy applause.
Pence, whose RBI single won Sunday's game, prompted more enthusiasm during a morning news conference in which the Giants officially announced his five-year deal that's worth reportedly $90 million.
"He's been truly a model for a way to conduct yourself on the field, to go hard, nonstop, relentlessly, and also the way he conducts himself off the field," Giants president Larry Baer said.
"This is an impact player in the clubhouse, in the community and on the field," vice president and assistant general manager Bobby Evans said.
"I couldn't be more thrilled," manager Bruce Bochy said. "I don't know how we could have replaced what Hunter does, on and off the field. He's a manager's dream."
Pence reciprocated the sentiment.
Calling the organization "brilliant," Pence said of club management, "I know that they're here to win." He added, "I think the fans want to see us win. We play this game as competitors to win. I think there's a hunger here and a confidence and a championship mentality. When I signed this deal, I signed it to be a player who's here to win."
Pence's status as a potential free agent demonstrated his sincerity. If he lacked faith in the Giants, he simply could have spurned their interest.
"I've waited a long time to have the opportunity to choose where I wanted to sign," said Pence, 30, who also has played for Houston and Philadelphia during his seven-year career.
Given the stability of a multi-year deal that includes a no-trade clause, Pence can sharpen his focus on his game -- not that he ever slacked off. For instance, his career-high total of 22 stolen bases this year can be largely attributed to his diligent offseason workouts geared toward increasing his speed.
"I don't think there's any part of me that's going to be stagnant and OK with where I'm at today," said Pence, who led the Giants with 27 home runs, 99 RBIs, 91 runs and 35 doubles, as well as steals. "I want to become a better ballplayer."
Pence will have difficulty improving in one respect. Sunday, he became the first Giant since the franchise moved to San Francisco in 1958 to start all 162 regular-season games. No Giant had accomplished this feat since shortstop Alvin Dark started all 154 games in 1954.
The Giants acknowledged Pence's durability with a congratulatory message displayed on the scoreboard during the middle of the first inning, which of course prompted more cheering from the audience.
Pence said this achievement wasn't a conscious goal.
"It just kind of came about, through being fortunate to feel healthy and not have any incident on the field to take me out of the lineup," he said. "I ultimately can only thank Bochy for continuing to put me in there. There was definitely a stretch or two where I wasn't quite hitting that great that he could have wanted to give me a day [off], but he kept putting me out there."
Seated next to Pence during the news conference, Bochy said, "I think the best compliment I could give you, Hunter, is if I had a kid and he came out to watch a ballgame, I'd say, 'Watch Hunter Pence. Watch how he plays the game, the passion that he plays with.'"
Referring to Pence's odd mannerisms, Bochy added, "I'll be honest, I may not have him watch you throw or take your on-deck swings."
All this mutual admiration hastened contract negotiations. Pence wanted to be a Giant, and at the conclusion of a disappointing season, the Giants wanted to generate hope among players and fans for 2014.
"Thank you, Hunter, for making this decision easy for us to bring you back," Evans said.
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.