Hunter Pence's surprising reunion with Giants excites veteran players

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SAN FRANCISCO -- About an hour into Friday's media availability at Oracle Park, a door opened up on the suite level and a team employee rolled a scooter out into the hallway. It was unconnected to the day's events, but a couple of Giants laughed at the coincidence. 

The team got back together for the first time since September, and players spoke to the media with the knowledge that the band was somewhat getting back together, too. Hunter Pence passed a physical Friday afternoon and signed a one-year contract that could pay him up to $5.25 million in his return to the Giants. 

It was a reunion no one saw coming.

"I was surprised," shortstop Brandon Crawford said. "Obviously with his speech on the field and basically saying goodbye to San Francisco a couple years ago, I don't think anybody really expected him to be back here. With all he's done for the organization over the years and for the city, I think everybody is going to be pretty excited to have him back."

First baseman Brandon Belt joked that he cried when he heard the news, then pivoted and said it's going to be a great addition to a clubhouse that will skew younger this year, even with Pence and Pablo Sandoval back in the fold. 

"I was really happy, I was happy to hear that," Belt said. "He's been a big part of this organization for a lot of years, so to see him leave, it was very sad obviously. To hear he's coming back, I'm pumped. He just brings a different energy to the clubhouse, he brings a lot of leadership to the clubhouse, and that's going to be good for the younger guys to see people like Hunter Pence and Pablo Sandoval. 

"They're going to be some pretty good role models to have in the clubhouse. I'm excited."

First and foremost, the Giants are counting on Pence and Sandoval to provide pop. On days when neither is starting, first-year manager Gabe Kapler can look down the bench and see two options capable of tying a game with one swing. Sandoval projects to get plenty of time backing up Evan Longoria and Belt, and Pence will be a platoon option for the outfield. 

But outside of any offensive production, the Giants know they're getting two of the more energetic presences in the game, two veterans who truly, truly love baseball and will teach the next generation of Giants about preparation and being a good teammate. 

In a press release to announce the Pence signing, president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi noted that Pence's "leadership will be a big asset for our younger players." The Giants have a new-school front office and coaching staff, one that is all-in on analytics and modern teaching methods. But they realize the importance of culture, and the impact one teammate can have on another.

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In talking about Pence's return, catcher Buster Posey made an interesting point. The conventional wisdom is that Pence will help the younger Giants, but Posey pointed out that Pence put up All-Star numbers last year after making swing changes. He said he's interested in picking Pence's brain about what he did to get his production back. 

"He's one of the best teammates that anybody will ever have," Posey said, "And his enthusiasm is contagious."

Hunter Pence's surprising reunion with Giants excites veteran players originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area