SAN FRANCISCO — It takes something special to upstage Buster Posey at Oracle Park, but Hunter Pence managed to do it Saturday.
A few hours after he signed a one-year deal to return to the Giants, Pence took the stage at FanFest in his familiar No. 8 jersey. He received a 30-second standing ovation from the fans in attendance and spent the better part of an hour explaining how excited he is to be back.
Pence sat alongside Posey and Alex Dickerson, who wore a blank jersey after giving his number back to Pence.
“I just kept it warm for a year,” Dickerson said.
The hitters were followed on stage by manager Gabe Kapler and president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi, who said Pence became more hotly pursued when the front office was sitting around one day looking at the league leaders against left-handed pitchers and saw the former Giant right near the top of the list.
“It was just the perfect fit,” Zaidi said.
Pence slugged .636 against lefties last season, ranking 16th in the majors. He said most conversations he has had with the staff revolved around playing left field, and the Giants also plan for him to get plenty of pinch-hit at-bats. Beyond that, Pence is expected to serve as a mentor for the youthful roster. He's eager to dive in.
"It's whatever anyone wants. I'm open to share all the information that I have, and some people might not want it and some people might want it," Pence said. "I just want to try to make it the best for everyone. It's not like everyone has to do a certain thing. Let's give as much as we can to who is ready and who wants it."
That’s a quote that could just as easily be attributed to Kapler, who said he didn’t know Pence when the two were in the majors together but has followed him from afar. Kapler said he has followed Pence’s social media presence in recent years.
“He brings an extraordinary amount of energy to our ballclub,” Kapler said.
The new manager saw that in person at the end of the day. Pence and Kapler spent their final moments together on the KNBR interview stage, with dozens of fans gathered behind the plate waving to the latest offseason addition. When Pence finally headed for the airport, there was such a rush of fans with cell phones that stadium security guards and off-duty police officers had to intervene.
Pence said the reaction was awesome. He also said it's one he could have imagined when he rolled out of Oracle Park two years ago on a scooter.
Pence told the Giants back then that he would change his swing and be interested in returning, but he understood when the organization went in a different direction. He said he never gave up on this possibility, though.
"I didn't feel like it was the end," Pence said.