“Today, we’re going to pull every fiber of our beings, collectively—I’m going to challenge each and every one of you—every fiber of your being to see yourself as a World Series champion…”Hunter Pence addressing the crowd at AT&T Park after the final regular-season game of 2014.

Speeches don’t win baseball games. They can’t run, hit or catch the ball, and they can’t turn players or teams into something they’re not. But when Hunter Pence speaks, good things generally happen for the San Francisco Giants.

First, there was Pence’s impromptu clubhouse sermon in the 2012 postseason, when the Giants were facing elimination in the National League Division Series against the Cincinnati Reds

Then there were his remarks, excerpted above, which he delivered after San Francisco slipped into October as the second wild card in 2014.

Both times, the Giants wound up winning championships.

Yes, there were other factors. The most recent run, for example, owes more to Madison Bumgarner’s left arm than to Pence’s vocal chords. And a certain catcher by the name of Gerald Dempsey “Buster” Posey III has had a little something to do with San Francisco’s dynastic run, which includes a trophy in 2010 before Pence arrived in the Bay Area.

But the fiery right fielder with the scraggly beard, jerky mechanics and GIF-ready expressions deserves his share of credit—for what he’s accomplished between the lines, of course, but also for his role as the club’s vocal leader and resident preacher. 

“Hunter’s a little different, there’s no getting around it,” manager Bruce Bochy said last October, per John Schlegel of MLB.com. “He’s inspiring, how he plays, and also in the clubhouse and when he says something, because he says it with such passion.”

This season, San Francisco opened its title defense with Pence on the disabled list. On March 5, an errant fastball thrown by Chicago Cubs prospect Corey Black fractured Pence’s forearm (and initiated one of the classier Twitter exchanges you’ll ever see). Pence wound up missing the rest of spring training and the season’s first 36 contests.

The Giants went 18-18 without him and looked frequently listless on offense. When he came back May 16, the hope was he’d provide a spark.

Instead, he’s been a shot of rocket fuel.

Since Pence rejoined the lineup, San Francisco has gone 8-2. And in this case, correlation most definitely equals causation.

After going 3-for-4 with two RBI and a run scored in the Giants’ 8-4 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers on Memorial Day, Pence is hitting .342 with a .390 on-base percentage and nine RBI. In his second game, he launched a laser-beam home run against the Reds.

Needless to say, any concerns about his timing or conditioning after the long layoff have evaporated.

And his torrid output has been contagious. First baseman Brandon Belt in particular has been swinging a hot bat since Pence’s return, as ESPN Stats & Info recently noted:

Just like that, the defending champs are off and running, ready to challenge the archrival Los Angeles Dodgers—whom the Pence-possessing Giants swept in a three-game set May 19-21—for supremacy in the NL West.

“I think everybody’s happy to see him back in the lineup,” Giants pitcher Tim Hudson said, per Matt Kawahara of the Sacramento Bee. “He’s our mascot. He’s a guy that makes things work for us and keeps our mojo going in the dugout.”

A mascot who crushes baseballs, makes crazy faces and can deliver a damn good speech when you need one.


All statistics current as of May 25 and courtesy of MLB.com unless otherwise noted.

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