Former Astros, Giants star Hunter Pence talks about doing things his way

By Ben Verlander
FOX Sports MLB Writer

Hunter Pence was a fantastic baseball player who never did things the “normal” way. He did everything the Hunter Pence way.

It was funky, it was weird, it was downright unorthodox — and he embraced that.

He hadn’t always expected that to be the case, however.

Pence has always been an incredibly hard worker – even, in his words, something of an “overworked”.

“They would only let you spend a little time in the cage and a little time in the weight room,” he said this week on “Flippin’ Bats.” “I remember going to buy my own weight room memberships because I was like, ‘This is not enough!’ I wanted it so bad.”

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Pence also tried to make changes on the pitch. He learned from the best of the best in the Astros organization by picking their brains whenever he could.

“I had a notebook,” he said. “I wanted to interview them. I wanted to go to lunch. I wanted to learn all their secrets.

“What was cool was that I was even talking to people from other teams and stuff. And what I found was that a lot of times I was trying to do something someone’s way. else, and it was actually getting worse.”

He learned throughout the process to accept being himself.

“You have to know yourself. You have to find out what works for you,” he said. “By being the scientist and trying to learn from everyone, I just took a little bit of each and saw which ones worked for me.”

What Barry Bonds, Jeff Bagwell and Lance Berkman taught Hunter Pence about typing

What Barry Bonds, Jeff Bagwell and Lance Berkman taught Hunter Pence about typing

Hunter Pence tells Ben Verlander how he held meetings and lunches with players on his team and opposing teams to learn all he could about hitting.

Later in his career, Pence learned he had Scheuermann’s disease, which causes vertebrae to grow at different rates. This poses flexibility issues and could explain why Pence’s swing seemed unorthodox.

As for his funky arm move, Pence knows exactly when it started.

He grew up in Arlington, Texas, where during Rangers games there was a hill that the kids would run down.

“I ended up splitting my shoulder going down the hill too fast on a run,” he said. “My shoulder never really came back properly, so I couldn’t [my arm] above, and it hurt.”

The Astros attempted to correct this after drafting Pence, but were unsuccessful.

In the end, the team’s position was, “You throw hard enough and you’re accurate enough. Go out and play,'” according to Pence.

The moral of the story?

You don’t always have to do things the “right” way. The “normal” route is not the best for everyone.

Work as hard as you can, learn from as many people as possible, and be open to change, but ultimately choose what’s best for you.

No one has done it better than Hunter Pence, who had a lot of fun and won a few World Series championships with the San Francisco Giants along the way.

Ben Verlander is an MLB analyst for FOX Sports and the host of the “Flippin’ Batspodcast. Born and raised in Richmond, Va., Verlander was an All-American at Old Dominion University before joining his brother, Justin, in Detroit as the Tigers’ 14th-round pick in 2013. He spent five years in the Tigers organization. Follow him on Twitter @Verly32.


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Helen L. Cuellar