Hunter Pence played 14 big league seasons for four franchises with different approaches. He's also one of the few veterans to have played a season under Farhan Zaidi, Scott Harris and Gabe Kapler and then had a chance to talk openly about the experience afterward, so he's the perfect person to give an honest take about the direction of the franchise.
On this week's Giants Talk Podcast, Pence said he's very optimistic, not just about this season but the future. A big part of that is the new leadership in place, which extends to a large coaching staff that impressed Pence when he returned to the Giants last spring.
That staff is led by Kapler, who like Pence, is relentlessly positive. "It's very powerful, it's very powerful to have that support and to have that attitude," Pence said, noting that Kapler is "incredibly emotionally intelligent."
"You feel really supported by him, deeply, and the whole staff that they put together -- the unit -- is incredible," Pence said.
He was impressed by the depth of knowledge on the pitching side, too, but Pence mostly got to work closely with the trio of Donnie Ecker, Justin Viele and Dustin Lind. The three hitting coaches left an impression on Pence, who turned himself back into an All-Star in 2019 with the Rangers by embracing scientific and new principles. He couldn't carry that over to 2020 as his body started to break down.
"The hitting team, the three guys they've got in there are on top of everything and they're cutting edge (with the) biomechanics and knowing all that stuff," Pence said. "It's the stuff that I never really believed in until I had to believe in it because I just thought that mechanics kind of got in the way, but there are definitely scientific principles that can allow you to do more with less. You have to learn those mechanics and train it into the non-think state because things are happening so fast, but if you use certain angles properly and leverage your body properly, you can have a lot more power with a lot less effort."
That last part seems to perfectly sum up this 2021 team. Buster Posey, Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford are all comfortably into their thirties, but Posey and Belt have eight homers each and Crawford is right behind them at seven. If they stay healthy, all three could set or approach career-highs, a remarkable feat given how long they've been at this. All three have credited the new staff for helping them hone in on a new approach.
Pence was equally impressed with the front office, particularly the way Zaidi has rebuilt the team.
"He is crazy-smart at mining the data and getting the right things and bringing those guys in and then they have the weapons of this great staff that can get the most out of them," Pence said. "It's incredibly exciting."
It's once again a fun time to be at Oracle Park, with the Giants off to a 22-14 start and boasting a farm system that should have them contending for years to come. Pence hopes to be part of it at some point, saying he would like to learn from Zaidi and Harris, or possibly take an on-field role down the line. For now, he's enjoying cheering the Giants on from the couch (and occasionally the broadcast studio).
"I'm definitely open," he said. "I want to be part of the Giants and right now the best fit for me -- it's crazy times right now -- is as a fan and supporting and doing these small things. I'm really enjoying the journey of this season so far, and I really believe in them a lot."