“I get it. He’s an icon here”
Derek Holland, the former Texas Rangers pitcher who still makes his home in the Metroplex, made a perfect pitch in the first inning on Saturday and was rewarded for it as the umpire signaled Strike 3.
The fans of his current team, the San Francisco Giants, didn’t reward him very much. Some even booed the outcome.
The problem? Holland struck out Hunter Pence, the beloved former Giants outfielder now trying to make the Rangers’ Opening Day roster.
“I didn’t even pay attention, so if they did it, I respect it,” Holland said. “I get it. He’s an icon here.”
Pence was the biggest star Saturday afternoon at Scottsdale Stadium, where he received a robust standing ovation before his first at-bat against his old team. The ever-gracious Pence acknowledged the crowd and Giants dugout by waving his helmet.
“It’s a gift to play for the San Francisco Giants organization as long as I did,” said Pence, who played seven seasons with the Giants. “The fans are spectacular. It’s somewhat of a family feel because the whole time throughout my career they showed up and brought it.”
He met with Bay Area writers before the game, covering everything from his new swing to his new team to his time in the Dominican Winter League, but he didn’t think he would make it over to the other dugout to see his former teammates and manager, Bruce Bochy.
Pence said that he had a game to get ready to play. Holland was thrilled for Pence, with whom he teamed as the Ballot Brothers last season in an online push to get Brandon Belt elected to the All-Star team.
“I’m happy for him to still be playing,” said Holland, who played with Pence for only one season. “He’s such a great teammate, such an awesome competitor and a good guy to have in that clubhouse. I think that’s going to be huge for those guys. Unfortunately, I had to get the best of him.”
Said Pence: “I’m sure I’ll have a text about that. I don’t know if they were booing Holland, maybe the ball. It was a good pitch. ... I wanted to face him again.”