Although Hunter Pence is technically not a Giant anymore, I’ve seen a lot of folks on the Twittersphere asking what he’s been up to - if he’s going to retire, where he’s going to land, how he’s been revamping his swing - to name a few. I caught up with Hunter at the Gone Rogue Spartan Race Stadium Sprint and checked in with him on what he’s been up to this offseason and his plans for the next few months.
While I was with Hunter, a fan came up and asked Pence if he was going to retire. The answer to that is a definitive no — in fact, with all the work he’s put in during the offseason, it’s quite the opposite. Just two days after we saw him scoot off into the sunset on his brand new ride, he jetted down to Southern California to work with Doug Latta, the independent hitting coach most famous for revamping Dodgers’ Justin Turner’s swing and working with Mac Williamson to become a power threat (before the most unfortunate concussion of the season).
On not having a real offseason, Pence didn’t really see it that way:
I was eager and excited to get to work. I needed to reinvent myself and make this adjustment. So I came in, full-fledged and I feel really good right now. I’ve been training, enjoying myself, putting in the work and just excited to go play winter ball.
The coaching guru has been working with Pence on an angle of attacking the ball that is unique to his body. Pence credits Latta with looking at batting as a whole philosophy that evolves with the game of baseball:
It’s a whole different hitting philosophy. Pitching has changed a whole bunch and every person is different. Even working with Doug Latta, he’s going to work with every hitter a little bit differently.
There are whole new mechanics and a whole new approach that is totally different than baseball has ever thought. I think it’s been prevalent for maybe the last six or seven years but it’s been hush-hush through a couple of people that have been doing it and don’t really talk about it. It’s starting to be shown a little bit and being talked about more. It’s so backwards thinking and old-school and what is being taught. Even the best hitters actually think they’re swinging down on the ball because feel versus real is very different but in actuality they’re coming through it underneath and they’re coming through it with that path for the most part.
At the start of his training, Pence worked on just getting the basics of his new swing down, including training with former Giant, Marlon Byrd. Byrd worked closely with Hunter on the flexibility and body mobility needed to do the moves correctly. Through repetitive training about six to seven times a week, Pence has become more comfortable with the new approach:
I have a really good understanding of what I want to feel now applying it to every day at-bats and putting it to work there - that’s the next step.
In addition to getting the bat on the ball, Hunter also mentions how what he’s learned will keep him healthier moving forward:
I feel really good - it’s really exciting. It’s so efficient and so much easier on your body. I don’t think I could have swung that much with my old way - for instance, pulling an oblique. You don’t really use your obliques as much, you use a lot more of your power muscles like your legs and your backside. All that powers you through a lot more effortlessly.
When asked how he plans to measures his progress and performance, Pence admitted that he wasn’t as focused on the box score:
You’re more locked in to the process than the result. It’s getting the alignment, getting the leverage, working with my body correctly.
All the adjustments that were made are all in hopes that it will pay off when he heads over to the Dominican Republic to play with the Toros del Este, located in the picturesque beachy city of La Romana. The team is currently tied for last place in the league but are just four games out of first. When asked why he chose the Dominican League, Pence credited his great experiences with past Dominican teammates and their passion for the sport.
As it stands, Pence is unsure of whether he’ll be playing every day, what position he’ll be manning, if he will start right when he touches down in the DR, or how long he’ll be there. What he does know is he’s there to help his team win — a mantra Pence has had since the beginning of his career.
The goal is to win. That’s the gist of it. I did all this training and made all these adjustments to be able to help a team win. To win a championship. I want to be a big contributor, a powerful influence on the game. If I can implement that into the game and I feel I can help a team win in the major leagues - it all starts there. I’m taking it the way I always do - I play to win.
As for after Winter Ball, Hunter’s plans remain open, something that he said he’s looking forward to. While some teams have reached out to Hunter, the San Francisco Giants are not one of them. When asked if he would ever come back to San Francisco, Pence didn’t hesitate:
Absolutely. I’m definitely open.
[Writer’s Note: I wanted to mention that the opportunity to interview Hunter was made available by Gone Rogue so shout out to them. Hunter is a big fan and likes eating their protein-laden chips as part of his low-carb, clean diet that he’s been maintaining in the offseason.]