#PopUps: Hunter Pence and Fuller House

Written by: Nate Tweedie

Baseball and pop culture have intersected in America for more than a century. The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum takes a look at these cross-over stars and events in our new web feature #PopUps.

“Hunter Pence is proficient in Microsoft Office.” “Hunter Pence whispers sorry when he catches a fly ball.”

San Francisco Giants outfielder Hunter Pence became known to many baseball fans in 2014, when signs similar to the ones quoted above were made by fans in New York, then across Major League Baseball. Hunter Pence – and his signs – have now broken into a whole new fan base, those who follow the popular television show, Full House.

Ask a millennial who DJ, Stephanie, and Michelle Tanner are and most will instantly give you the following answer: “The girls from Full House.” Full House was a staple of television viewing for children from 1987 through 1995. Over eight seasons, America and its children grew up with the Tanner girls, who were raised by their maternal uncle, widower father, and the latter’s friend, Joey.

Full House has been on the minds of many of the now fully grown millennials because of streaming service Netflix and its decision to release the first season of its original series, Fuller House. Fuller House is a spin-off of the original show. It finds eldest daughter DJ, a widow, raising three young boys, one of whom is an infant. Overwhelmed by raising three boys on her own, DJ receives help from her sister Stephanie and best friend Kimmy Gibbler, who both move into the Tanner household to raise the three boys and Gibbler’s daughter.

Episode 10 of Season One, titled “A Giant Leap,” holds an unexpected surprise. Stephanie (played by Jodie Sweetin) asks her family not to embarrass her in front of her new boyfriend. After the doorbell rings, Hunter Pence of the San Francisco Giants walks into their living room. Pence is visiting the home to drop off tickets for Stephanie and her family to watch that day’s game, where Stephanie will sing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” At the game, the Kiss Cam, a comical arrest, and a diehard San Francisco fan base lead to mix of dramatic moments and laughter.

While Pence has been on television before, this appearance marks his television acting debut. Pence is best known for his awkward-but-highly-effective play on the field. Nevertheless, he has also gained a following through comical social media posts. Fans of opposing teams have made a variety of signs with odd and entertaining comments that took social media by storm. For example, signs that say “Hunter Pence puts ketchup on his hotdog” and “Hunter Pence DVRs Full House re-runs” have appeared at major league ballparks. Interestingly, this phenomena involving Pence signs happened before any tangible connection to the television show was known.

Also, in 2014, due to his popularity across baseball, Pence appeared in a rap video created by his future fiancé and social media star, Alexis (Lexi) Cozombolidis (@Letsgetlexi). The video mocks Pence. Some of the lines from the video include, “He claps at the wrong part of the Friends theme,” and “Watching Space Jam always makes him cry.”

Cozombolidis has become a well-known social media presence and regularly includes her fiancé in her work. In true millennial style, many aspects of Pence’s life, including his proposal to Cozombolidis was recorded and uploaded to social media. Through Lexi’s posts, we are able to gain more insight into the life of Hunter Pence both in and outside of baseball.

While Pence has become a favorable ambassador for the sport of baseball through social media, fan-made signs, and Fuller House television appearances, he has been quite successful on the field, as well. In 2004, Pence was taken in the second round of the draft by the Houston Astros. Pence quickly moved up to the majors, where he made his debut early in 2007. That year Pence finished third in Rookie of the Year voting behind Colorado’s Troy Tulowitzki and winner Ryan Braun. Pence continued to play well defensively and put up decent numbers offensively through the 2011 season. On July 29, 2011, the Astros traded Pence to the Philadelphia Phillies, where he enjoyed his first taste of postseason baseball, before being eliminated by the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Division Series. Almost a year to the day from when he arrived, Pence was traded again, this time to the San Francisco Giants in July of 2012.

Pence became a nice addition to the San Francisco Giants, who were looking to return to the World Series and reclaim their crown from 2010. Adding an All-Star like Pence to the lineup did help the Giants, who earned another set of World Series rings in 2012. During the postseason, Pence scored seven runs, and picked up 13 hits, four RBI, and one home run.

The next season, the Giants failed to defend their title as World Champions, finishing 16 games back of the division-winning Los Angeles Dodgers and missing the playoffs. Yet, the poor finish by the Giants was not due to a lack of performance by Pence. In 2013, Pence played all 162 games for the Giants and belted a career high 27 home runs.

Pence would again play in every regular season game for the Giants in 2014. He also would record a career high 106 runs, 180 hits, and 650 at-bats on his way to his third All-Star Game and third playoff berth. In the season in which the Pence signs and the rap video made their debuts, Pence would put up great playoff numbers en route to his second World Series ring. In the 2014 World Series, Pence had five RBI and scored seven runs on 12 hits and a .500 on-base percentage.

In 2015, the Giants again failed to defend their title and failed to return to the playoffs. The Giants finished the season eight games behind the division-champion Dodgers and 13 games behind the second wild card spot. Also, Pence was severely limited by an injury that allowed him to play in only 52 games.

Despite his injury in 2015, Pence is still in the front of the minds of many baseball fans, especially the millennials who were surprised by the six-foot, four-inch outfielder’s appearance on a spinoff of a childhood classic. It is safe to say that between the television appearance, the odd fan-made sign phenomena, and his social media savvy fiancé, Hunter Pence may be just as visible to those outside of baseball and he is to the fans who watch him play. Needless to say, it is interesting to see just where Hunter Pence may pop up.

Nate Tweedie is the manager of on-site learning at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

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