After watching Hunter Pence in just one at-bat or make one play in the field, it’s impossible not to root for him. He seems like a regular guy. Like he’s the guy from IT you let play on the company softball team because he’s the only one who knows how to get your email working.
When he throws, it looks like the ligament in his elbow is connected to his ankle. He runs like he was made from scrap iron in a junk yard. But what it is, though, is his spine.
In 2013, after six seasons as a major leaguer, and as he was signing a five-year, $90 million free agent contract with the Giants, doctors discovered Pence suffers from Scheuermann’s disease, a spinal disorder that results in a severely deformed vertebrae.
That never prevented him from playing professional baseball at the highest level. He’s been an All-Star three times, finished in the top twenty in MVP voting three times, and has won two World Series rings.
The guy is a winner.
Pence has been one of those players who has achieved sustained greatness for a long time. One of those guys you always wished would be a Ranger. Not just because he grew up a few miles from the Ballpark but because he plays the game right. He is a pure hitter.
When it seems like he was used up, the Rangers signed him to a minor league contract just before spring training. They treated him like an afterthought. This is a rebuilding year and Pence doesn’t fit that plan.
Only he does. He has the energy and work ethic that can only be a positive influence in the clubhouse. He can lead by example.
All he’s done since he put on a Rangers uniform is produce. The more he produces, the more playing time he is getting.
Sure, he’s not part of the Rangers future. But he’s one of the few bright spots in the Rangers present. And nobody goes to the Ballpark to see tomorrow’s game.
With so many of the Rangers core young players underperforming—Mazara, Odor, DeShields, Guzman—guys like Pence remind you of how high the bar is and how far so many of these players need to go to get there.
Maybe his biggest contribution to the 2019 Rangers will be as a measuring stick.