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Giants' Hunter Pence: Stable force with spacey nature

The San Francisco Giants' Hunter Pence is congratulated

The San Francisco Giants' Hunter Pence is congratulated by Pablo Sandoval after Pence hit a two-run home run during the first inning of Game 1 of the World Series against the Kansas City Royals on Tuesday, Oct. 21, 2014, in Kansas City, Mo. Credit: AP / David J. Phillip

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Hunter Pence quieted the deafening crowd at Kauffman Stadium in the first inning Tuesday night, belting a two-run homer that put the Giants well on their way to a 7-1 victory in Game 1 of the World Series.

The rightfielder, naturally, had to have been aware of the wall of silence induced by his blow, and relished the moment.

"No,'' Pence said. "It was really loud in my head.''

The roomful of reporters laughed and Pence smiled, though it was clear he wasn't altogether joking.

And the affable and sometimes airy Pence had more to say, as he usually does.

"I say this, and I truly mean it, sometimes my mind when I'm playing the game or our team is doing something good, it's like an emptiness. I don't know what's going on around me,'' Pence said. "And a lot of times my family will get mad at me. Because even if I'm watching TV and really watching the show, I won't hear anything that's being said around me.

"It's kind of a blessing and a curse at home. I get people really angry with me, but on the field it works out good.''

The 31-year-old Texan, traded to the Bay Area from the Phillies during the 2012 season, is not the face of the Giants. That, of course, is All-Star catcher Buster Posey. But there is no more important voice in the clubhouse, as shown by the fact that when manager Bruce Bochy wants a message delivered, Pence does the delivering. Or Pence takes on the job without being asked.

"Here's a guy with a lot of passion,'' Bochy said before Game 2 Wednesday night. "He's a guy that likes to step up and say a few words. He speaks from the heart. Probably as much as how he says it and with the passion that he speaks, I think it does so much for the players, as much as the content itself.''

Madison Bumgarner, the winning pitcher in Game 1, said Pence commands respect, and not just with his words.

"It would be hard to imagine him being able to be any better of a teammate or supporter for his guys,'' Bumgarner said. "Nobody works harder than him. I mean, it's been an honor and a blessing to have him as a teammate.''

Pence, taken by the Astros in the second round of the 2004 draft, is a three-time All-Star, including this year, when he hit .277 with a .332 on-base percentage and had 20 homers and 74 RBIs. He is not a superstar but is a steady performer -- he has a career .284 batting average and .338 OBP -- and is among the game's most durable players. Pence has averaged 159 games a season since 2008, playing all 162 each of the last two seasons.

"He plays every game, but [it's] not just that,'' Bochy said. "I mean, he's a guy that's always doing something to inspire his teammates. Not just the way he plays and the energy he plays with, but inside that clubhouse, off the field, and that's what we all love about him.

"He's a special guy in that respect because not a lot of guys can get themselves up every day the way he does. He's a tireless worker, and I've said this, he's the lowest-maintenance player I've ever had. I just put his name in the lineup and leave him alone.''

Pence is signed through 2018 and, after stops in Houston and Philadelphia, sounds as comfortable as he's ever been.

"I think that the type of people that run this organization and the type of players that are here, it's just a group that I felt like I fit in there,'' Pence said. "There are a lot of accepting people of different personalities, and, really, I've just been extremely grateful to have had the opportunity to come over here.''


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