Thursday, February 11, 2010

Nocturnal Emissions, Vol. 3

Brian McTaggart is getting in on the Nocturnal Emissions love (pun intended) with his profile on Hunter Pence:

The nuance of the hit-and-run. The art of knowing on which count to steal a base. The science of defensive positioning in the outfield. Astros right fielder Hunter Pence would rather talk about any of those things, and many others, than himself.

He's not really unique in that way, though. He's not the first baseball player to shy away from giving himself a pat on the back in favor of praising teammates. But Pence remains a different kind of soul, an interloper in a clubhouse culture that prefers PG-13 movies over thought-provoking literature.

Pence is humble with his words, but not his actions. He plays right field at Minute Maid Park with the kind of reckless abandon that has made him a fan favorite. He embraces those fans and welcomes their chants, signs -- "Hunter, will you marry me?" -- and autograph requests.

It's part of the job, just like running into a wall to chase a foul ball that landed 20 rows up. Just like throwing out a runner at home plate or hitting a three-run homer. That's what he's paid to do, so why all the fuss?

And Hunter knows his baseball history:
"In baseball, you're always learning. No one has ever hit 1.000, hit a home run every time and struck every guy out. There are times you feel you're really close and you can have good days, but you're still never perfect."

More McTaggart:
Pence watched Super Bowl XLIV intently and paid attention to the way New Orleans Saints quarterback -- and fellow Dallas area native -- Drew Brees handled himself and his success. He recently read the book "The Art of War," an ancient Chinese work of military strategy and tactics that has inspired leaders and been applied to business and managerial strategies...

...He's already won over the fans with his hard-nosed style of play, his production at the plate and his willingness to acknowledge them. Even if it's a simple wave and smile after batting practice, Pence can find comfort in the fans. Everything else, he says, is a work in progress.