When the Texas Rangers signed Hunter Pence to a minor league deal on February 7th, many Rangers fans, and potentially even Pence himself, didn’t expect the 35-year-old to make the Opening Day roster with an already loaded outfield that included Joey Gallo, Nomar Mazara, Delino DeShields and Shin Soo-Choo.
It was almost like a dream for Pence initially until the Rangers announced on March 21st that he’d be a member of the team when Opening Day rolled around on March 28th at Globe Life Park against the 2016 World Series champion Chicago Cubs.
The Texas native grew up in Arlington and played high school baseball at Arlington High School. After finishing playing youth baseball in the same city in which the Texas Rangers call home, Pence attended Texarkana College for one year and served as a designated hitter before ultimately transferring to the University of Texas at Arlington.
Pence returned to the outfield at UTA and hit .347 during his sophomore season in 2003 and was named a first-team all-conference outfielder in 2003. After the 2004 season, Pence was named the Southland Conference Player of the Year despite missing 15 games throughout conference play after posting a .395 batting average. Pence was then drafted in the second round, or 64th overall, in the 2004 MLB Draft by the Houston Astros and made his major league debut as a center fielder for the Astros in April 2007.
After playing for the Astros for a few seasons, Pence was traded for the first time in his professional career to the Philadelphia Phillies in July 2011. Just one season later, Pence was traded yet again, but this time to the San Francisco Giants. Pence had a relatively successful tenure early on with the Giants, winning two World Series Championships in 2012 and 2014.
Perhaps Pence’s best season of his career came in 2013 when he appeared in all 162 games for the Giants en route to recording a .283 batting average with 27 home runs and 99 RBIs. As a result of Pence’s production that season, he earned a huge contract extension worth $90 million over five seasons.
Unfortunately, Pence’s big paycheck was filled with a mix of unhealthy seasons, as Pence struggled with injuries. Pence only played in 52 games in 2015 before appearing in just 97 games in 2018, a season in which Pence hit a career-low 4 home runs and a mere 24 RBIs. Of course, age and fatigue most definitely played a role in Pence’s steady decline in production.
So then why did the Rangers take a gamble on Pence?
Well, the reason for this doesn’t necessarily have to do with his enthusiastic clubhouse presence or his unique batting stance that could put Rangers fans into the seats at Globe Life Park this year before moving across the street to Globe Life Field in 2020.
One reasonable answer is that Pence can still be productive when he’s healthy. The veteran led the Rangers this spring training at-bats with 51 of them and recorded 16 hits and 6 stolen bases. Though this is just a small sample of what Pence can do in a Rangers uniform, it’s a testament to his work ethic and what he might be able to bring to the table.
Only time will tell how long Pence is going to remain on the Texas roster. But one thing is certain, and that’s the fact that Pence is a Texas Ranger now.
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