SAN FRANCISCO – The Willie Mac Award is bestowed on the Giants player who most inspires the clubhouse with his positive attitude, tireless work ethic and performance on the field.
This year, being inspirational was an impossible task. But Nick Hundley managed it well, and the Giants honored their backup catcher with their highest honor prior to Friday night’s game against the San Diego Padres.
If true character emerges in times of struggle, Hundley showed his stripes time and time again this season.
“It’s somebody that inspires everybody else,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “It’s an honor when you look back at who’s won it. How they come to the park, their attitude, how they play the game, the type of teammate they are – it all goes into it.
“The person who wins it every year is very well thought of.”
The Giants arranged for Hundley’s family to be in attendance as McCovey announced his name as 17 former winners, surrounded him on the field.
“It’s pretty overwhelming to be standing here with Giants legends,” Hundley said. “These guys up here I have tremendous respect for. This organization is first class. They flew my family out for this, they’ve taken care of us better than any place I’ve ever been. To be mentioned in this company is incredible.”
Hundley thanked trainers, coaches and the players who voted for him. He didn’t leave out the fans, either.
“We know it hasn’t been the best record wise, but you guys have been standing with us every day,” he said, concluding brief remarks. “So thank you very much.”
In a season that quickly turned into a dumpster fire, with so many of the club’s plans and projections providing the fuel, Hundley has done exactly what Bochy and the front office expected when they signed him to a one-year, $2 million contract in February.
Hundley entered Friday hitting just .246 with nine home runs and 34 RBIs but he also has worked to improve his defense and provided little dropoff in terms of brain power when Buster Posey took a day off. Hundley’s presence allowed Posey to move to first base more often in the last two months of the season, after Brandon Belt sustained a season-ending concussion. And Hundley provided an occasional jolt of right-handed power on a team that had so little of it.
Hundley is tied with Hunter Pence for the most right-handed home runs at AT&T Park this season, with four. (Posey has three. The Padres’ Wil Myers has hit five.)
Hundley is a free agent after this season – the only one on the roster, assuming Johnny Cueto does not exercise his opt-out clause – and as much as the Giants need to reconfigure as they attempt to avoid a 100-loss season, they will attempt to re-sign the backup catcher.
There is no reason for the Giants to cast aside the 34-year-old veteran of 10 seasons, considering Trevor Brown’s down year at Triple-A and Aramis Garcia not yet ready.
“I think he knows how much we think about him,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “He’ll have some choices, but … I’ll sit down with him in the next day or two.”
Hundley said last weekend at Dodger Stadium that he would love to return to the Giants.
“I love it here,” Hundley said. “Those things will be handled privately, but I love it for sure. It’s a fun group to win with, when we have won. I can’t imagine how much better it’d be if we were winning more games.”
Hundley joins a group of respected current Giants that includes Matt Cain, who received the award in 2009, Posey (2012), Hunter Pence (2013), Madison Bumgarner (2014), Brandon Crawford and Javier Lopez (who shared last year’s award).
Ryan Vogelsong (2011) and Andres Torres (2010) were among recent winners in attendance. So were emcee Mike Krukow, Jack Clark, Larry Herndon, Dave Dravecky, Mike Fender, replay coach Shawon Dunston, Marvin Benard, Ellis Burks and bullpen coach Mark Gardner.
And Willie McCovey, of course.
“To win this award means you’re in the family,” McCovey said.
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