SAN FRANCISCO -- Kevin Pillar started his year in Toronto. He'll end it by taking home the most prestigious award you can get as a San Francisco Giant.
Pillar is the 2019 winner of the Willie Mac Award, given annually to the player deemed most inspirational by players, coaches and clubhouse support staff. In a year in which the Giants had plenty of worthy candidates, including fellow newcomer Stephen Vogt, Pillar stood out for his consistent hustle and dedication to stay in the lineup every day and put up team-leading numbers.
"I didn't know Kevin before he got here, but I heard a lot of things about him, and it was all that was advertised," manager Bruce Bochy said after Thursday's game. "How he plays the game, how dependable he is, how durable he is. I just took it for granted he was fine every day and put his name in the lineup."
An offseason target for the Giants, Pillar was finally acquired on the season-opening road trip. He will play his 154th game Friday night, and the production has been there throughout. Pillar is tied for the team lead with 21 homers and leads the Giants in RBI (86), runs (81) and stolen bases (13). He has also provided his typical highlight reel defense in center field.
"He brings it every day. We've had some long days, extra innings, and he comes out the next day like it's a new day," Bochy said. "I'm sure he's feeling it, but you wouldn't know it. And the bat speed, that has not slowed down one bit. He has that point of contact you love. So, it's been a really, really good year for him."
Pillar is under team control for one more season but it's not a lock that the Giants will tender him a contract. He is entering his final year of arbitration, but the production has been there, and Friday's announcement was further confirmation of what he has meant to a team that's getting younger.
"That's a guy everyone in this locker room should aspire to be like," fellow outfielder Mike Yastrzemski said. "That's one of the biggest things I've taken from this year, seeing the process of guys who have lasted as long as they have. He hasn't just done it this year. He's played that amount of games throughout his career. He never takes a day off, never asks for one, never wants one."