Texas Rangers

Butterflies and chills for Hunter Pence as childhood dream realized with Rangers

Hunter Pence has won the World Series and been an All-Star during his 12-year career.

But he finally lived a childhood dream on Thursday. Pence, the Arlington native who played at Arlington High and UT Arlington, was in the starting lineup for Opening Day at Globe Life Park against the Chicago Cubs.

Suiting up in the Texas Rangers uniform, the team he grew up watching in the ballpark he saw open in 1994, made it a goosebump day for Pence, who signed as a free agent in February and then surprised many by making the team with an excellent spring.

“I definitely had a lot of butterflies, a lot of goosebumps. It just gives me chills looking up at where I remember sitting and taking the field with this uniform on,” said Pence, who went 1 for 4 as the designated hitter in the 12-4 loss to the Cubs. “There’s a lot of special, random memories that just kind of pop up as you’re out there. The sounds, the Texas flag flying. It was just one of those goosebump days for me.”

Pence, who won two World Series playing with the San Francisco Giants the past seven seasons, found it surreal to hear public address announcer Chuck Morgan call his name.

“Every ballpark is just a little bit different and there’s something unique about the one you grew up going to and watching,” he said.

Cubs starter Jon Lester allowed a two-run homer to Elvis Andrus in the third inning but earned the win by limiting the Rangers to two hits in six innings.

“He locates well. He’s been doing it for a long time, he knows what he’s doing,” Pence said. “We had a lot of good at-bats but they pitched really well. That’s baseball.”

Part of the allure of having Pence, who turns 36 in two weeks, for the Rangers, is his clubhouse presence for a slew of younger players on the roster.

He flashed that veteran charm after the Opening Day loss.

“You know who won the World Series last year,” Pence asked a reporter, referring, of course, to the Boston Red Sox. “They lost on Opening Day last year. I remember [manager Alex] Cora was on the hot seat the next day. It’s a long season and we have two more games in this series. We can still win this series. We’re going to keep plugging away.”

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Stefan Stevenson has been covering sports for the Star-Telegram since 1997. He spent five years covering TCU athletics, which included two BCS bowls, two trips to the college World Series and the move to the Big 12. He has covered the Texas Rangers since 2014 and started reporting on the Dallas Cowboys in 2016.