Hunter Pence said goodbye to the Giants and their fans on Sept. 30 before riding off into the sunset on a scooter. And despite the very Pence-like exit, he said he wasn't retiring.
He headed to the Dominican Republic on Wednesday for winter ball, to test out new mental and physical approaches in the hopes he'll have one more shot at the game he loves.
Pence stopped by the NBC Sports Bay Area newsroom Tuesday to discuss his new swing, the changes in baseball and what he's been up to since his possible last day in a Giants uniform.
NBC Sports Bay Area: You've been working on some stuff to prepare to travel to the DR as far as your swing. You've been working with Doug Latta -- what did you work with him on specifically?
Pence: He just has this philosophy that allows you to leverage your body better. Hitting has always been the same thing -- getting along through the zone, creating angles that work to your advantage, but what we didn't know is that it's actually kind of backwards with what we've always thought. There are many ways to succeed in hitting so I don't know if it's the only, ultimate way.
Hitting is like chasing a ghost. He has a lot of things that help you get into a good position to be as efficient as you can -- which you need every bit of that that you can, dealing with the way pitchers have kind of adjusted throughout the years.
In regard to adjusting to the way the game is played, what's the biggest change over the years?
I don't know if it's the training or what, but pitchers are just throwing harder and they have a lot more movement in all different directions. It's just the nature -- the game is evolving, and so hitting has to evolve as well, and I think some of the new-school stuff -- they say 'launch angle,' but Doug isn't really creating launch angle, he's more about using your body efficiently and being long through the zone.
Ted Williams actually said that in his book, and nobody really paid attention to it. He called it an upswing, because the pitcher’s throwing down, and what he meant to say was an uppercut, which I was never taught to do -- I was always taught to swing down. I think a lot of hitters kind of figured it out or maybe even “feel versus real” doing an uppercut. I feel like Prince Fielder did it really well, Barry Bonds definitely came through that way with the top hand. And it’s really a lot of that. It’s just redirecting my swing, learning a bit of change in the body for shoulders.
Was that difficult for you to change?
Yeah. It just takes time. I wouldn’t say it was difficult. It just takes practice and a lot of work.
I know you’re working on your running, too. What has your body been changing? We love to watch you run. I’m just curious what you’ve done.
It’s not like how you would think. It’s actually going to look worse [laughs]. I don’t know how to explain it -- I haven’t even mastered it. I have in regard to getting a lead, and finding ways to get back and just that initial couple steps.
David Weck is the guy who is pushing it. It’s like head over foot, so your head kind of goes down and there’s a weird kind of double-down pulse. It’s a lot.
Beyond physically, what have you been working on mentally?
I’m always working on that. Just constantly meditating, reading, listening to YouTubes, podcasts … The mental part is everything to me.
Have any teams reached out to you?
Yeah, a couple teams have reached out. I’m not going to really discuss who, but I’m really open -- I want a chance to play, a chance to win. I want to make sure that I’m making an impact -- that’s a big reason why I’m going to the Dominican and bringing this change. I love the game, and I would love to play to win a World Series -- and that’s my whole goal -- to be a contributor and help a team chase a division title, a World Series title, and if I can make that adjustment [in hitting and running], then that's what I aim to do.
Since your last game at AT&T Park, with the scooter, how has the San Francisco community embraced you?
I’ve been so lucky to have such a great relationship with the community here in San Francisco with the fans and to be supported so well. Really, I’ve just loved every minute of being a part of this organization and the city. It takes my breath away every day I see it. Just walking through the city, the interactions with different people walking by, saying hello, taking pictures. It’s just a great time, and I’m very thankful for it.
Would you be open to coming back to the Giants?
Oh, I’m very open to coming back -- absolutely. I love it here, and I told Larry [Baer] you know, send your scouts to come watch [in the Dominican]. I’m going to make this change, and he said, “We will definitely be checking in.” I haven’t heard from them yet -- a couple of other teams. But I know [the Giants] are changing GMs and all of that, so we will see.
But hopefully I can go make some noise and really put all of this work that I’ve put in together and go chase that World Series title.
And you’re feeling good? Everything is good?
Oh yeah, I’m extremely healthy, feeling great and just eager, enthusiastic and excited. I’m actually really glad I get the opportunity to go visit the Dominican Republic because I have so many great teammates from there, and it’s just going to be a wonderful experience.