Veteran infielder Wilmer Flores, won the 2022 Willie Mac Award for his contributions to the Giants on the field and in the clubhouse.
Flores’ famous walk-up song, the “Friends” theme, played as he emerged from the Giants’ dugout to accept the distinction. In classic Flores fashion, he began his concise speech by thanking his teammates, trainers, coaches, family and Giants fans.
“I just want to come back stronger next year, and I really appreciate it,” Flores said from the infield podium. “Thank you.”
The prestigious honor, named after slugger Willie McCovey, recognizes individual achievement as well as competitive spirit and leadership. Players, coaches, and training staff have voted on it since 1980.
“I think he’s among the most universally respected players in our clubhouse, as well as in the game,” Giants manager Gabe Kapler said in a statement. “I think he’s respected for his consistency, for his dedication to the San Francisco Giants, and also to tuning his teammates up. For that reason, everybody is thrilled for Wilmer in this moment.”
The Venezuela native posted career-highs in home runs (19), doubles (27) and RBI (70). He hit .231 with a .718 OPS.
Flores, 31, played all around the infield this year. He gutted through multiple injuries to lead all Giants in games with 146.
Flores’ accomplishments earned him a two-year, $13 million contract extension.
Flores is known within the team as a quiet but wise leader. He’s taken many younger players under his wing, most notably infielder Thairo Estrada — who’s also from Venezuela.
“His timing is impeccable,” Kapler told reporters Friday. “He doesn’t do it out in front of everybody — you’re not going to see Wilmer like grab Estrada, put his arm around him in front of the cameras. It’s very subtle. It’s conversational…He’s had a huge influence on Estrada.”
LaMonte Wade Jr. won the Willie Mac Award last year, and Mike Yastrzemski the season before him. Madison Bumgarner (2014) and Brandon Crawford (2016) were also on the infield to participate in the pregame ceremony — along with 10 additional past winners.
Like Wade last year, Flores performed his best in the clutch. His walk-off home run on Sept. 4 was one of his many big hits; he posted a .310 average and 1.011 OPS in high leverage situations, per baseball-reference. In the ninth inning, he hit .400.
It seems like the game never speeds up on Flores, no matter the situation. He drove in between 12 and 15 RBI each of the first four months of the year — a mark of consistency and timeliness.
“I think baseball requires a degree of steadiness, of stoicism,” Kapler said. “Not in any like philosophical way. i’m not making any statements here. But a level of just calm. A level of perspective. A level of experience.”