The Giants are heading to the World Series for the fifth time since moving to San Francisco in 1958, and a familiar face will be appearing in his first. Hunter Pence, a member of the 2004 Tri-City ValleyCats, will now be competing on Major League Baseball's biggest stage; The ultimate "Joe" to "The Show" scenario.
Pence becomes the second former ValleyCat to reach the fall classic, as his 2004 'Cats teammate Ben Zobrist made it with the Tampa Bay Rays in 2008. The Rays ended up losing to the Philadelphia Phillies in five games.
Pence was originally drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers in the 40th round of the 2002 MLB Draft out of Texarkana Junior College, but decided against signing. He went on to attend the University of Texas-Arlington where his value grew despite an unorthodox batting style. It was his extremely hard work ethic and great enthusiasm for the game that two years later led him to be drafted two rounds higher.
Pence was the 64th overall pick by the Houston Astros in the 2004 MLB First-Year Player Draft, and was assigned to Tri-City. He batted .296 for the 'Cats, leading them to their first 50-win season, a Stedler Division title and a berth into the New York-Penn League finals, where they would lose to the Mahoning Valley Scrappers.
Two years later, this time with the Class AA Corpus Christi Hooks, Pence would get back to the finals and win the 2006 Texas League Championship. Following the season, Pence cracked Baseball America's Top 100 Prospects list for the first time, ranking at number 38 overall, tops in the Houston Astros farm system.
Pence would make his Major League debut with the Astros on April 28, 2007 at 24 years old. That season he went on to hit .322 with 17 home runs, finishing third in National League Rookie of the Year voting.
During his time with Houston, Pence was elected to the MLB All-Star Game twice (2009 and 2011), and was named the Astros Most Valuable Player in 2010.
The Astros then began a rebuilding process to restore its franchise to the success it had grown accustomed to achieving in the 90's and 2000's.
In 2010, Houston traded longtime Astros Roy Oswalt and Lance Berkman, and in 2011 traded Hunter Pence to the Philadelphia Phillies. Pence went from a last place team to one of the best, and would appear in his first postseason. The Phillies were ousted in Game 5 of the National League Division Series by the St. Louis Cardinals.
Pence was traded to San Francisco midway through this season and has been an emotional leader for the Giants. He has struggled so far this postseason, batting .188, but came through for the Giants when it mattered most.
In the 3rd inning of the decisive NLCS Game 7, leading St. Louis 2-0 with the bases loaded and nobody out, Pence hit one of the strangest broken bat doubles you will ever see. He swung at the first pitch he saw from Cardinals pitcher Joe Kelly, shattering the bat. The ball hit the bat three times, sending a curve ball just past the reach of shortstop Pete Kozma. The hit scored three runs and broke the game open for the Giants.
When asked how good it felt to be heading the World Series, Pence summed it up with a simple word, "Good." He will now look to help lead the Giants to their 2nd title since 1958 and become the first former ValleyCat to become World Series Champion.
In 2010, the last time the Giants won the World Series, the trophy made a stop at "The Joe." Maybe this time Pence can be the one to bring the trophy back to the city where both the roots of the Giants franchise, and his professional career began.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.