Thursday, December 25, 2014

Fans gave Pence 'chills'

The best way Hunter Pence could summarize his first day in Philadelphia was with two words.

Fans gave Pence 'chills'

Hunter Pence congratulates Ryan Howard on his solo home run in the second inning. (Ron Cortes/Staff Photographer)
Hunter Pence congratulates Ryan Howard on his solo home run in the second inning. (Ron Cortes/Staff Photographer)

The best way Hunter Pence could summarize his first day in Philadelphia was with two words.

"Thank you," he said.

Pence was humbled by the ovations from the 181st straight sellout at Citizens Bank Park; ovations that began during batting practice, continued when he stretched minutes before game time and all the way until the ninth inning when the right fielder saluted the crowd one final time.

Phillies fans are smitten.

"The fans were giving me chills," Pence said. "I mean, I ran out to stretch and they went nuts. It was pretty amazing."

Twenty-four hours took Pence from right field at Miller Park to three different airports and a new fortune. The closest he's ever been to the postseason was 2008, when Houston finished in third place (11 games back) in the National League Central.

He has played on losing teams in an apathetic baseball city for his whole career. It's all he knows.

"I can't even begin to explain it," Pence said of the reaction. "It's surreal. I'm absolutely ecstatic to be here. To see that support, for my first game, it's awesome. Thank you. It's the only thing."

Now one day in a Phillies uniform may have created unnecessary hype. Pence was 1 for 5 with a run-scoring single in the eighth. He is not a superstar by any means. He's not even Jayson Werth (circa 2008-10) when he provided pop and walks matched by few corner outfielders.

In fact, since the beginning of 2008, Pence has the same OPS (.802) as Bobby Abreu. That's tied for 11th among all major-league right fielders.

But he brings stability to a Phillies lineup that lacked a righthanded presence. And for that, Pence is rewarded with a shot at the postseason. He plopped his Astros duffel bag in the empty locker next to his new one in Citizens Bank Park, emptied the contents, and started anew.

That bag will probably disappear come Sunday morning.


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