They say you only get one chance to make a first impression. Luckily for Hunter Pence, that's all he needed.
The 181st consecutive sellout crowd at Philadelphia's Citizens Bank Park Saturday night couldn't get enough of their new right fielder. While the Bank welcomed its 25 millionth fan, the fans welcomed Pence with standing ovations when he came out for batting practice, when he ran out to the right field waving his hands above his head in return, when he got his first hit (and RBI) as a Phillie, and pretty much any time he moved, stretched or spit.
As for Pence, imagine, for a minute, his last 24 hours. He was pulled from the Astros game against the Brewers Friday night and and was seen in the dugout giving hugs to his teammates, saying an emotional goodbye to the team he has played for his entire career.
Saturday morning he took a flight out of Milwaukee, changed planes in Detroit, landed in Philadelphia and came straight to the ballpark, where his new manager had already happily written his name on the lineup card.
And less than 24 hours from leaving Miller Park an Astro, he jogged out to right field in Citizens Bank Park with his old-school, pants-high look in his new Phillies red socks. In less than a day he had gone from the team with the worst record in baseball at 35-71 to the team with the best, 66-39.
"I'm telling everyone I just jumped 62 games in one day," Pence joked before the game. "I think that might be epic proportions. I don't think anyone can beat that. It's pretty cool."
And that was before he took the field. The Phillies went on to beat the Pirates, 7-4. Pence went 1-for-5 on this night with one RBI, despite replay clearly showing he beat out an infield hit in his first time at-bat in which he was called out.
Pence was in the five-hole hitting behind (and hopefully protecting) Ryan Howard who went 4-for-4 with a home run, two doubles and three RBI. Coincidence? Probably, but it was still an auspicious start for the Astro-turned-Phillie who is still trying to take in his whirlwind ride.
"I can't even begin to explain it," Pence said. "It's surreal. I'm absolutely ecstatic to be here."
A new day, a new city. New teammates, new uniform, new home. All in 24 hours. It is one of the oddities of sports that these highly paid athletes, who are in complete control of their every move on the field, but can overnight have no control of their lives off of it.
So it is for Hunter Pence on this hot July night. And what were his first impressions of his new home?
"The fans were giving me chills," he said. "To see that kind of support from my first game, it's awesome. Thank you."
No, Hunter. It's the fans of Philadelphia who thank you.
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