SAN FRANCISCO -- The best way to guarantee that the All-Star Game remains relevant is to fill the rosters with performers who believe that playing hard is a must and that winning is the ultimate goal.
In other words, the National and American Leagues should clone Hunter Pence.
The time-honored value of sustaining a dedicated effort lives on with Pence, whose bug-eyed intensity, backbreaking swing and motivational speeches reflect the sincerity of his work ethic. Fans can reward the Giants right fielder by casting an online ballot for him in the 2013 All-Star Game Final Vote sponsored by freecreditscore.com.
NL Candidates BY THE NUMBERS
Pence's credentials demonstrate his passion for playing. He has started all 88 of San Francisco's games this season and, entering Monday, had played all but four innings defensively. A 2-for-37 slump dropped Pence's batting average to .266 before Monday, but he still ranked among the NL leaders in extra-base hits, doubles and multi-hit games. He also was one of four players in the Majors with a perfect stolen-base percentage, going 13-for-13.
"Hopefully he gets in," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said Monday. "I know our fans will be behind him. ... You look at Hunter's numbers, he deserves to go. It's something he's earned. This isn't by any means a case where you're putting a Giant on there."
Pence acknowledged the challenges of shaking such an extreme slump.
"A lot of it is in your mind, feeling good with your swing," he said. "Sometimes when you have a bad feel, it's tough to get out of it in the middle of a season."
While Pence has struggled offensively, he has continued to play solid defense as he strives to find a way to contribute any way possible.
"You have to create wins," he said. "If you score runs and drive in runs and play defense, you find ways to win games. I just need to make sure I focus on other parts of the game, too. ... The main goal is to find a way to win ballgames, however that is. If it has to be getting a guy over, if it has to be laying out for a fly ball in the outfield, my goal is to make myself the best I can to play for the San Francisco Giants."
Now in its 12th year, the 2013 All-Star Game Final Vote sponsored by freecreditscore.com gives baseball fans around the world the opportunity to select the final player on each All-Star team. Balloting began immediately following Saturday's Major League All-Star Selection Show presented by Taco Bell and ends Thursday at 1 p.m. PT. The winners will be announced on MLB.com shortly thereafter.
There will be an extra treat for fans who participate in the Final Vote online. If you are not a current MLB.TV subscriber (MLB.TV or MLB.TV Premium), you are eligible to receive a 14-day free trial of MLB.TV from July 12-26. If you are a current MLB.TV subscriber (MLB.TV or MLB.TV Premium), you will receive a 15 percent discount to the MLB.com Shop. MLB.com will send an email Friday to all Final Vote voters with instructions on how to redeem the applicable offer.
Mobile voting in the U.S. and Canada is open to everyone. In the U.S., to receive the 2013 All-Star Game Final Vote sponsored by freecreditscore.com mobile ballot, text the word "VOTE" to 89269. To vote for Pence, simply text message N4 to 89269. In Canada, fans should text N4 to 101010. Standard message and data rates may apply.
For the second consecutive year, the 2013 All-Star Game MLB.com Final Vote sponsored by freecreditscore.com (#FinalVote) will include a social balloting element as Twitter support from the candidates' fans over the last six hours of balloting will count toward their final vote totals. From 7 a.m.-1 p.m. PT on Thursday, any tweet that includes a designated player hashtag will be tabulated as part of the overall vote total used to determine the American League and National League winners. Fans may follow @MLB on the popular social networking service for the latest standings updates in advance of the 1 p.m. PT balloting deadline.
The fun doesn't end there, however. Fans, having already decided the starters and final player on each team, once again will have the opportunity to participate in the official voting for the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player presented by Chevrolet via the 2013 All-Star Game MVP Vote on MLB.com during the All-Star Game.
The 84th All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX Sports, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and RDS, and worldwide by partners in more than 200 countries via MLB International's independent feed. ESPN Radio and ESPN Radio Deportes will provide national radio coverage of the All-Star Game. MLB Network and SiriusXM also will also provide comprehensive All-Star Week coverage. For more information, please visit allstargame.com.
By now, Pence's pregame exhortations during last year's postseason, particularly the one he delivered before Game 3 of the Division Series at Cincinnati, have become the stuff of legend among Giants fans. But Pence downplayed their influence.
"It was all about the way the team played," he said. "It had nothing to do with my speeches. We had a great performance all the way around."
Pence's zeal dates back to his teenage years at Arlington (Texas) High School. He worked extensively with Don Werner, a former Major League catcher, who recognized Pence's desire immediately.
"The first thing I noticed about him was that he loved to play the game. That caught my attention," Werner said. "Hunter had no problem with the hard-work part, that's for sure."
Werner recalled suspending an automobile tire next to the practice field he, Pence and other youths used. Swinging at the tire would strengthen a hitter's hands and develop a more aggressive swing. Werner said that when he drove into the parking lot adjacent to the field and exited his car, he already could hear the "whack! whack!" of somebody smacking the tire. Werner didn't have to guess which of his pupils was sharpening his swing.
"I always thought, 'Well, Hunter's here,'" Werner said.
Pence has been selected twice to the NL All-Star team, both times as a representative for the Houston Astros. He didn't appear in the 2009 Midsummer Classic at St. Louis, but he distinguished himself in 2011 at Phoenix's Chase Field, going 1-for-2, scoring a run and throwing out a runner at home plate to help the NL triumph, 5-1.
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.