The Philadelphia Phillies were so eager to have the two-time All-Star join their team that manager Charlie Manuel wrote his name down before Pence even showed up and put on the red pinstripes.
The Phillies, seeking their third NL pennant in four years and second World Series title, acquired Pence from the Houston Astros for three prospects and a player to be named late Friday night.
Just like that, Pence went from the team with the worst record in the majors to the one with the best. He was batting fifth, playing right field and wearing No. 3 against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Saturday night.
"I'm really happy to be able to be a part of a team that's in a playoff race," Pence said Saturday. "A lot of players never get this opportunity. I've never been a part of it. I'm thrilled to be here and I'm ready to go."
"I jumped 62 games in one day. I think that might be epic proportions," Pence said. "It's pretty cool."
A horde of reporters and cameras waited for Pence when the clubhouse opened 3.5 hours before the game. He arrived after doors were closed to the media and jogged out to the field to join his teammates at 4:40, shortly after the team had finished stretching and already started taking batting practice. Wearing his pants high as he normally does and revealing his new red socks, Pence exchanged handshakes and hugs and immediately ran out to right field to shag some flies.
Pence got along with fans right away. He signed a few autographs in between rounds of batting practice and received a nice ovation from the early arrivals who watched him hit. Pence responded by putting his arms in the air as he jogged to first base. He drew more cheers when he blasted a shot deep into the second deck in left field.
"When you come to Philadelphia, even as an opposing player, you see the passion and it's exciting," Pence said. "You want to play in those intense environments and now those guys have my back and they're also gonna be on my throat if I'm not playing the right way, which is the way it should be. You want to be in town where it's exciting and people are paying attention."
Roy Oswalt and Brad Lidge, Pence's former teammates in Houston, told him what to expect in Philly.
"Brad and Roy told me there's nothing like it because the fans are passionate, it's a packed house," Pence said. "They said, `You're in for a treat, have fun and go play some baseball."'
The addition of Pence ended Philadelphia's season-long search for a right-handed hitting outfielder. The Phillies have been trying to find a productive hitter to bat behind Ryan Howard.
Pence hit .308 with 11 homers and 62 RBIs with the Astros. He batted .278 over the past three seasons, hit 25 homers each year and averaged 82 RBIs.
"I feel like what we're getting is a baseball player," Manuel said. "We're getting a guy that hustles, has a lot of passion for the game and fits in with us. We're getting a guy who not only brings offense to the lineup, but some energy and life."
Manuel managed Pence in the 2009 All-Star game. He recalled feeling bad because he didn't put Pence in.
"I get to play him now," Manuel said.
The Phillies also welcomed back another All-Star to their lineup on Saturday. Third baseman Placido Polanco returned from a back injury that sidelined him since July 5. Polanco batted seventh instead of his usual No. 2 spot, which was occupied by Shane Victorino, who moved up from fifth.
"I like that because it gives us speed at the top and that's our small ball," Manuel said about hitting Victorino behind Jimmy Rollins. "(Pence) gives us a lot of options to mix up our left-handed hitters. We can hit Victorino or Polanco second, sixth or seventh. We can hit Raul (Ibanez) sixth or seventh."
To make room for Pence, the Phillies sent talented outfielder Domonic Brown to Triple-A Lehigh Valley. Brown will move to left field, which is where he likely would play next year because the aging Ibanez is a free agent after the season. Brown batted .246 with five home runs and 19 RBIs in 54 games for the Phillies this season. He made some mistakes defensively and a few blunders on the base paths, too.
"I think Dominic Brown has a chance to be a very good hitter," Manuel said. "He needs to work on his defense some and needs to work on playing the game."
The hometown fans were pretty excited about Hunter Pence's first game as well.
"It's what we were missing," said Molly McGlinchey, who seemed pretty confident about October. "We're going all the way; hands down."
"I can't wait to see him out there, and we're looking forward to the game," said Patty Barry. "Bring on Pence!"