Tuesday, October 28, 2014

2014 World Series MVP

I'm publishing this blog during the morning of game #6 of the 2014 World Series. As my fingers dance (many would say plod) across my computer's keyboard, the Giants of San Francisco lead the best-of-seven series 3 games to 2 over the surprising Royals of Kansas City. I don't have a horse in the race but unless one has some lifelong affiliation with the Giants, it's difficult not to hope that perhaps the underdog Royals just might complete the ever so rare Cinderella season and win the championship of Major League Baseball.

Those Giants of that west coast cable car city are experienced, talented and well coached. In the experience category, they must might win their third World Series title in the last five years. If they do that they will have gone the distance in each of the last even numbered years (2010, '12 & '14). From a talent point of view, they undoubtedly have the best pitcher on the planet in Madison Bumgarner who in game #6 pitched a "complete game shut out" with the white, orange and black side securing a 5-0 victory. A complete game shut out in the World Series is, well, rare and if this goes to a game seven in the home yard of the Missouri 25, I'm sure we're going to see Mr. Bumgarner once again but this time on "short rest". As for coaching, the mild mannered Bruce Bochy is considered to be among the elite of the managers in MLB. To say the Royals, who as a franchise have not won the Commissioner's Trophy since 1985, had an uphill battle would be putting it mildly.

As with most major league sports, the playoff recognizes a player, not necessarily from the winning team, who sets a standard of performance superior to all the rest. My candidate for the 2014 World Series MVP is the Giant's Hunter Pence. You'll recognize Pence for a variety of reasons.

First, he wears his uniform in a way that I've never seen before. Unlike most baseball players whose pants now go to the shoe tops, Hunter has joined the small, but growing number of players who wear the pants in the throwback manner with the pants stopping below the knee where a long pair of socks start. Some even have the "stirrup socks" with the white "sanitary under socks" showing. But Hunter Pence has his pants stopping above the knee. I'm pretty sure he's the only one in MLB who wears his pants like that. He says it gives him more freedom of movement.

Hunter has a mop of curly, brown hair that makes his baseball cap fit rather awkwardly on his head and that cap is 6' 4" from terra firma. He's not short!

At bat, his swing is, well, to be polite, not classic. It's a rather stilted attempt to propel the baseball which is traveling in excess of 90 mph back toward the direction from whence it came and he does it rather regularly, not with much power but the baseball many times finds a hole in the infield for a base hit and frequently that base hit comes at just the right time, either moving runners along or scoring a much needed run.

That's when you'll notice another defining characteristic, his wide-eyed, genuine enthusiasm for this kid's game for which he and his MLB colleagues get paid exorbitant sums of money (baseball, unlike most professionals sports in North America, does not have a salary cap). But Pence gives the impression that although he's an independent business person, he'd play for nothing. His love for the game is clearly infectious. He's the "straw that stirs the drink" on the team. Every team needs a Hunter Pence!

When he fields a ball in his right field position, his throw back to the infield is the first indication, along with that aforementioned stilted swing of the bat, that all is not as it should be physically as no elite athlete in this sport would throw a baseball like that. Hunter is a professional baseball player with a huge obstacle in his way. He suffers from an ailment know as "Scheuermann's Disease".

To state it simply, it's a condition of the spinal column whereby the vertebrae are misshapen and misaligned. There is no cure and no treatment about which I'm aware. It's not life threatening but it's certainly life altering. So, for someone aspiring to play professional baseball, well, to say it takes a dedicated individual would be perhaps the grossest of understatements.

In the face of these odds, Hunter Pence has excelled on the field and in the club house. By his actions and sometimes his words, he makes the Giants team "greater than the sum of its parts". I doubt there's a player on the team who looks at Pence and decides to just "mail it in". Much of what this team does, and the Giant's, like the Royals, had to play their way into the MLB playoffs through a one game winner-take-all contest, it does on the wings of their right fielder!

So my winner of the 2014 World Series MVP Award is Hunter Pence!

For those young people who might be reading this for whom others have said you'll never reach your life goals because (insert physical condition here), remember the words of Henry Ford;


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