Hunter Pence

Ex-Giant Hunter Pence shares why playing for Rangers is childhood dream

Ex-Giant Hunter Pence shares why playing for Rangers is childhood dream

Dreams do come true, Hunter.

Former Giants outfielder Hunter Pence, who recently made the Texas Rangers’ Opening Day roster, will be playing at Globe Life Park (the home of the Rangers) on Monday night in the Rangers’ exhibition game vs. the Indians.

Pence is a native Texan and went to college at the University of Texas at Arlington. The three-time All-Star noted that when he wasn’t playing baseball in college, he used to park cars at Globe Life Park for work.

The two-time World Series champion will now get to play in the park he once worked as a college student, and we’re guessing his salary is just a bit higher now than it was then.

Pence, of course, is a fan favorite among Giants fans. Coming over in a trade from Philadelphia in 2012, he helped lead the team to two World Series titles (2012, 2014) and inspired his teammates and fans alike with his hard-nosed play and Reverend-style speeches.

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The 2013 Willie Mac Award winner revamped his swing this offseason and had a strong enough spring with Texas to make the big league club.

Giants fans everywhere will surely be rooting for him as he starts this “childhood dream” chapter of his career.

Former Giant Hunter Pence makes Rangers roster after successful spring

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AP

Former Giant Hunter Pence makes Rangers roster after successful spring

SAN FRANCISCO -- A few hours after an emotional goodbye at Oracle Park last season, Hunter Pence started working on his swing.

It paid off.

Pence will make the Texas Rangers’ Opening Day roster, according to TR Sullivan of MLB.com. He was in camp with his childhood team as a non-roster invitee and had a huge spring.

Pence, 35, is batting .356 in Cactus League play with three homers and five doubles, with an OPS over 1.000. He has six stolen bases in as many attempts.

Pence looked just about done last year while batting just .226 with four homers for the Giants. But he vowed to remake his swing in the offseason by working with renowned instructor Doug Latta in Los Angeles, and he took the unusual step of playing winter ball in the Dominican Republic as an established veteran.

That all led to a tryout with the Rangers, who valued what Pence could bring to their young spring clubhouse. He ended up adding right-handed pop, too, and he beat out several, including young prospect Willie Calhoun.

[RELATED: Pence's inspiring winter ball speech

On Thursday morning, a few hours before the news became public, Pence tweeted out a short message: “It’s Thursday and I’m thankful.”

Hunter Pence has 'pretty, pretty special' day vs. Giants in Scottsdale

Hunter Pence has 'pretty, pretty special' day vs. Giants in Scottsdale

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Hunter Pence never was at a loss for words when it came to speaking to Giants fans. But the veteran outfielder paused for a moment Sunday afternoon when asked about receiving a standing ovation after he hit a homer against the Giants.

"Pretty, pretty special," he said, smiling. 

The home crowd showered Pence with love throughout Sunday's spring-training game against the Rangers, Pence's second visit to Scottsdale Stadium since parting ways with the Giants. There were plenty of opportunities to do it, too.

Pence had three hits -- something he did just twice last season for the Giants -- including a homer off Jeff Samardzija. The right-hander laughed and said he used to flood Pence with sliders when they faced off before becoming teammates.

Samardzija threw a cutter in the third inning, and Pence blasted it halfway up the berm in left field. The crowd erupted, and many Giants fans stood as Pence rounded the bases. 

"It kind of takes the edge off a little bit when the home fans are cheering for the road guy," Samardzija said. "But what a great guy, and obviously we owe a lot to that guy. We wish him the best, and it's just good to see him out there playing hard. He looks healthy, too."

Pence hasn't been able to play the field because of a minor shoulder injury, but he's scheduled to do so Monday, taking another step in what has been a big spring for the 35-year-old. Trying to make the Rangers as a non-roster invitee, Pence has 10 hits in 27 at-bats (.370), with four doubles, two homers and four stolen bases in four attempts. 

Those are the kinds of numbers the Giants grew accustomed to back in Pence's early years with the organization. His game tailed off the last two years, but Pence spent an offseason overhauling his swing, and he's happy with the results. 

He also was happy to be back in a familiar place, and he soaked it all in Sunday. After hitting two singles, he chatted it up with Giants first baseman Brandon Belt, whom he said is "like a brother to me." Pence joked with reporters that he has gotten revenge on Giants left-hander Derek Holland, who jokingly complained after Pence's first visit that he wasn't returning texts. 

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Before any of this, Pence took 21 minutes to sign autographs along the third base line. At one point, he found himself taking photos with two young fans wearing No. 8 Giants jerseys. 

"It's extremely humbling, and it really is an honor," Pence said. "It's an honor to have been a part of such a great team. My whole goal is just to be able to give everything I can. I love the game of baseball, I was grateful to be a part of that organization, that city, that fan base that is just incredible. It's just an honor."