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MLB.com Columnist

Meggie Zahneis

Giants' Pence displays his passion for the game

Giants' Pence displays his passion for the game

Hunter Pence has the "X factor" -- that quality in big league players, or any guy trying to make it to the top.

But rarely is that "thing" on full display in any one baseball player.

Pence is the exception. If you're searching for that "it," Pence is a gold mine. At 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds, the man is practically made of the stuff.

But let's be clear: Don't call that "it" intensity or hustle, drive or fire. That's not what Pence wants.

"I wouldn't want to call it intensity or fire, but more passion," Pence said. "I love the game. I love to play. I'm grateful. I'm the one who is blessed to be able to play here every day, and it's truly an honor. The contest, playing against the best in the world in a Major League season, there's just so many things about it. I just try to enjoy it as much as I can."

Passion, eh, Hunter? That'll work.

It's a word that sums up Pence perfectly. Just ask the people of Houston, who got behind the man who kept their team afloat with that passion. Talk to the Phillies' faithful, for whom the 2012 Trade Deadline shipping of Pence to the West Coast proved to be an arrow to the heart of the City of Brotherly Love.

But you might get the most powerful testimonials from Giants fans. Pence was the driving force behind the Giants' National League Division Series rally from a 2-0 series deficit, but not in the way you'd expect. Sure, Pence's bat was loud, but his mouth was louder. Before games, Pence was often in the center of a huddle more common on the gridiron than a dugout.

Those speeches earned him the nickname "Reverend Pence," and more importantly, a World Series ring.

"There's a freeing aspect to [saying], 'I don't care about anything but making a decision to give my all for you guys, because I love playing with you guys,' instead of 'I'm going to be the guy where I'm going to step up and put all this pressure on myself,'" Pence said. "[Instead, I said] 'I'm going to give it my all because I love playing with you guys and I love the game.'

"We kept it simple; the bullpen was outstanding, the pitching was great; timely hitting. That's what I think was the most important thing. It wasn't the speeches, it was the action," Pence said humbly.

Playing in -- and winning -- the World Series was an experience Pence will treasure forever.

"The totality of it, the embodiment of the camaraderie with your teammates, the [fact that] the city is following you, the fans support you, the interaction …" Pence said. "It's pretty special to be part of something [like a World Series team]. We talk about it from time to time. Being a player and playing long and hard with all of the hard work that goes in, to be rewarded with an opportunity in the playoffs and have success in the playoffs, there's nothing like it. Your whole world -- even when you just go to the cities where you played in the playoffs, it'll never feel the same. You just remember those moments."

But the native Texan is just as quick to tell you he doesn't take it all for granted.

"I don't want to say that the only way to success is winning the World Series," Pence explained. "The ultimate bonding experience is in every little thing: to be grateful for even the smaller things -- just a daily win here or there or even recovering from a loss, facing a loss.

"There's definitely treasures embedded in all sorts of things in life. It doesn't have to be a World Series championship. That's your wildest dream. I used to think that was the only way to be successful. I disagree with that now. I think that giving your all is being successful."

Hunter Pence, ladies and gentlemen. A sage, a reverend, a baseball player.

A passionate human being.

Meggie Zahneis, winner of the 2011 Breaking Barriers essay contest, earned the job of youth correspondent for MLB.com in the fall of '11. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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