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Hunter Pence, Mike Krukow, and the importance of nostalgia in a foregone season

Just when I thought I was out, they pulled me back in again.

San Diego Padres v San Francisco Giants Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

It might shock you all to learn that I have been less than enthusiastic about the upcoming Giants baseball season.

I know, I know. What could possibly make me lose interest in this team? Me, a person who was recently informed that I would soon be unceremoniously dumped from a dream job where I got to write about my favorite baseball team, after being disgruntled about the hiring of their new manager, on the day after they let their ace walk away in free agency.

I know you’re all scratching your heads as to why you haven’t heard from me since.

But here’s the thing, I really wasn’t planning to watch any baseball this year. Why would I want to do that when it would be so painful? Not just the on-field product of a team in a half-hearted rebuild period that may never end. But also the constant reminder of what I’ve lost? Not to mention all of the unseemly scandals around the game that have come out in the recent weeks.

And then a few things happened on Friday that gave me some perspective.

It started with me getting angry all over again about the team letting Madison Bumgarner walk. Because where else would it start?

We’d already seen Pablo Sandoval get another opportunity with the team. And on Friday, the rumors started to swirl about Hunter Pence coming back and the possibility that maybe Yasiel Puig could even be coming our way.

I felt cheated on a personal level.

First, if we’re getting the band back together, again, why let Bumgarner go? If we’re basically admitting that this is going to be another lost season and banking on nostalgia to fill seats, why not go all the way? Call up Matt Cain and see what he’s up to. Send an expedition to the Pacific Northwest to find Timmy. Find a medium to get in touch with the ghost of Freddy Sanchez that haunted the 2012 team. Just lean into it if we’re going that route.

Second, imagine Bumgarner and Puig on the same team. My goodness. I feel personally cheated of the possibilities.

But it was the news about Mike Krukow no longer being able to travel at all that really hit a nerve. It’s wonderful that he and Duane Kuiper will be able to call 22 more games per season together by splitting the broadcast between the ballpark and the studio. That makes me really happy for Krukow, who has already been robbed of so much by the disease he battles on a daily basis. And yes, the two will still be side by side in the booth for home games.

But it made me re-evaluate what I actually enjoy about baseball. It made me realize that our time with these people is limited, even when it is randomly extended in a wonderfully unexpected way, as was the case with Pence.

Hunter Pence is likely very near the end of his playing career, and may end his career as a Giant in a way that many of us expected to see at the end of his 2018 season.

Thanks to his resurgence in 2019, that has been preempted. And I, for one, will be there with bells on to salute him as he returns to his home planet while donning the orange and black.

However the end of a playing career is often just the start of another path in the game, as we’ve seen with so many former Giants players.

But the end of a lifetime career in baseball is another thing entirely. Mike Krukow and Duane Kuiper have been calling games for nearly as long as I’ve been alive. They are as fundamental to the game of baseball to me as bats and gloves. And this time we have with them is limited and to be cherished.

After everything that happened to close out 2019, I was prepared to take a very long hiatus from the team, if not the game. I was hurting. But Friday’s news made me realize what I would miss by missing that time.

Additionally, the return of Hunter Pence and Pablo Sandoval, just on a human level, make this team infinitely more enjoyable for me and many others.

Will they play better for it? Probably not. But if you were expecting the 2020 team to be playoff contenders, I don’t know what rock you’ve been hiding under.

If I have to watch a 65-win team, I’d rather do it while watching the players I have come to love as human beings remind me of a time when my love of baseball was pure and unhindered by the outside world.

Maybe it actually wasn’t, but it seems like both baseball and the world were a much simpler place when Pence and Sandoval were postseason heroes in 2012. And though the ultimate goal of any sports team is, or should theoretically be, to win championships; it’s clear that this year’s team was unlikely to be destined for that, even in an era when no one seems to actually be trying to do so.

But getting to watch these guys play ballgames called by Kruk and Kuip for another year, well, I’ll take it. It’s comforting and familiar, like a favorite blanket that keeps you insulated from the harshness of the outside world.

Maybe it’s nostalgia overriding common sense. And maybe you’ve had too much nostalgia. But at the end of the day, this is a game and I’m not playing it. I’m not managing it. And soon, I won’t even be writing about it. I am trying to be entertained by it; to lose myself in it when times are tough.

And in a world that is just so...

/gestures vaguely at literally everything as it burns and caves in around me

I will take the nostalgia in a heartbeat.