SAN FRANCISCO -- LaMonte Wade Jr. didn't have to wait until the late innings to be in the spotlight this time.
Wade. Jr., dubbed Late Night LaMonte for his ninth-inning heroics in his first season with the Giants, was named the 2021 Willie Mac Award winner before Friday's game. The award is given annually to the player deemed the most inspirational in a vote by players, coaches, staff members and fans, and Wade was the choice in a year when the 105-win Giants had plenty of deserving candidates.
After asking Renel Brooks-Moon if he could go over and shake hands with the previous winners who had come to Oracle Park, Wade gave a short speech.
"I'm truly blessed and honored to receive this award," Wade Jr. said. "I'd like to thank my family, my mom and dad, friends, the Giants organization, the strength staff, the training staff for keeping me healthy this season. And of course, I'd like to thank Willie, who I know is watching from above. Finally, I would like to give a shout out to the fans here in San Francisco. You guys have been great all year and we appreciate the love and support you've given us and continue to give us."
Wade's parents were brought out from Maryland for the ceremony, which allowed them to watch Thursday's walk-off. His mother, Emily, threw a strike while throwing out the ceremonial first pitch to her son.
Wade was acquired before the season in an under-the-radar deal with the Minnesota Twins that cost the Giants Shaun Anderson, who was in the ballpark on Friday night with the San Diego Padres, his fourth team since the trade. The Giants hoped Wade could partially help fill their void in center field, but he has developed so quickly and shown such a knack for big hits that manager Gabe Kapler has alternated between hitting Wade in the leadoff spot and the cleanup spot down the stretch.
The 27-year-old entered the final series of the season with a .821 OPS and 18 homers, seven more than he ever hit in a minor league season. Wade got on the Giants' radar because of his plate discipline and solid all-around game, and he has worked tirelessly with hitting coaches Donnie Ecker and Justin Viele to tap into more power. Wade's calm demeanor has made him the perfect choice in big moments, and he has had plenty of them.
Wade's walk-off on Thursday night was his sixth go-ahead or game-tying hit in the ninth inning, the most in MLB in four decades. He is 13-for-23 with 12 RBI in the ninth inning this year.
"I think what stands out is how selective he is," Kapler said earlier this season. "He's just taking pitches that he doesn't feel like he can do something with and sometimes those pitches are strikes ... he's willing to go down in the count but trust that he's got enough bat speed, he's got enough whip, (enough) lower-half power, to get the ball in the air to the pull side. He's been doing that for us all year and getting big clutch hits for us all year."