Hunter Pence isn't suffering from first-year jitters. The 24-year-old Texan is batting .351 with seven home runs, 33 RBIs and five stolen bases over the first 47 games of his career. The 6-foot-4 center fielder was named the National League's Rookie of the Month for May when he hit .343 with 16 extra-base hits and 19 RBIs. Pence recently answered some questions from MLBPLAYERS.com.
MLBPLAYERS.com: You are in the midst of a long road trip that also features a trip to face the Rangers in your hometown of Arlington. Are you looking forward to that?
Pence: I'm looking forward to playing at home. It's where I grew up. The Rangers were the team I watched growing up and I watched that ballpark get built.
MLBPLAYERS.com: You played against the Rangers a few weeks back. Was that strange?
Pence: It was strange. I had watched a lot of those guys on TV recently and many of them when they first came up. It was a weird feeling to suddenly be on the same field as them.
MLBPLAYERS.com: Have the team's struggles taken away from the success you've enjoyed personally?
Pence: It's been exciting to start well. But I came up here to win and we've had our struggles; we have had our battles. I think we have the team to win, so whatever success I've had so far doesn't mean as much. Wins mean something. Once we get the team rolling, and the bats get hot and the pitching comes through for us, that's when I'll feel better about what I've done.
MLBPLAYERS.com: What has surprised you the most so far about the big leagues?
Pence: Nothing really. I'm not sure what would have surprised me. It's just baseball. That's the approach I take. These guys are good, but nothing has really surprised me. I've gotten up here and done the same things I've been doing my whole life. You have to focus just a bit more.
MLBPLAYERS.com: This is your fourth year of pro ball. Thinking back to the day you turned pro, are you where you thought you would be in your development right now?
Pence: This is my fourth year if you count my first half of a season. I never really put a time frame on it at all. I'm happy to be where I am at right now, but I'm taking it one day at a time. I worry about where I am today and what the task at hand is today. We're 10 games out and if we get a win today, it will help us climb back toward the top.
MLBPLAYERS.com: How did it feel to be named the National League's Rookie of the Month for May?
Pence: It was humbling. It was a humbling thing to win that award. It is a big deal and it's something that can never be taken away. I'm really proud of that honor. On the other hand, I take it with a grain of salt and just move on. The focus needs to stay on today.
MLBPLAYERS.com: I know it's very early, but when you hear the talk and your name associated with Rookie of the Year honors, how does that make you feel?
Pence: It's just what you said it is -- it's talk. I just come in every day, see if my name is on the lineup card, and then I start thinking about the first inning. Everything else takes care of itself.
MLBPLAYERS.com: You got your first hit in your first game. Was it nice to get it out of the way so quickly?
Pence: Yeah. It was real nice. It wasn't really an ideal hit, but it found a hole, which was nice.
MLBPLAYERS.com: What do you remember most about your first big-league home run?
Pence: We were playing the Cardinals and we were ahead in the game quite a bit. The bases were loaded and when I got ahead in the count, I looked for a fastball. I happened to get that and I put the bat on it. It felt nice to get that first one. The first hit was important, but when you get your first big-league home run, that makes you really happy.
Jeff Moeller, a freelance writer for MLBPLAYERS.com, is based in Los Angeles. MLBPLAYERS.com is the official Web site of the Major League Baseball Players Association. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.