For a lot of guys in sports, an injury or disease can end your entire career.
Not for Texas Rangers outfielder Hunter Pence. Back in 2013, right before he signed a big contract with the San Francisco Giants, Pence discovered that he had Scheuermann’s Disease, a spinal disorder, that affected how he swung.
If you are a Giants fan, or pay any attention to Giants baseball when they are on TV, you saw Pence’s unusual stance. Each time he would step up to the plate, Pence would take an open stance and move his baseball bat around in circles, unlike a more traditional swing of just holding the bat on your shoulder.
Pence would slightly bend over, just like Alfonso Soriano back in the day. Pence had great numbers with the Giants, hitting 93 homeruns, recording 406 RBI’s, and hitting over .225 in every season but 2012 (first Giants season). Pence even made the NL All-Star roster in 2014.
What you do not see, however, is that Pence’s 2016, 2017, and 2018 seasons were largely overshadowed by injuries, some even serious enough to derail his career and prevent him from playing baseball again. In 2016, a torn hamstring tendon. In 2017, another issue with his hamstring. In 2018, a sprained thumb (missed 40 games). Pence, once slowed by a scary disease, would not let a simple tear or sprain prevent him from playing the game he loves.
Yes, Pence finished the 2018 season, but it was with his worst batting average (.229) since 2012, his first season with the Giants. For someone who was entering free agency in the 2018-2019 offseason, Pence did not put up good numbers, and this showed, as he remained unsigned for a large portion of the offseason.
One day, however, a second chance struck. In February 2019, the Texas Rangers signed Hunter Pence to a minor league contract with an invite to Spring Training. If Pence made the major league roster, which he did, Pence would have a one-year contract worth $2 million.
Take about a guy who has made the most of his chance. For someone who did not know how much playing time he was going to receive, Pence has firmly inserted himself into the Texas Rangers’ starting lineup. He has been a key to the Rangers turnaround from a 2018 last-place finish in the AL West.
So far this season, Pence owns a .308 batting average, has hit 11 home runs, and has recorded 37 RBI, which is most on the team. With Pence’s strong performance this season, he is on the All-Star ballot, and remains a favorite to be voted into the All-Star Game. If Pence keeps producing at his current level, he will certainly be a lock.
I love a good comeback story like Pence’s. He revived not only his career, but the hopes of the Texas Rangers’ season. Pence has cemented himself as a daily fixture in the Rangers lineup this season, and maybe for seasons to come.
Hunter Pence is back, and he is here to stay.