An Ode to Joe Panik as He Retires
For nearly as long as I can remember, whenever anyone asked me who was my favorite baseball player, I said Jorge Posada. He was the player I wanted to emulate from the time I was little. Like Jorge, I didn’t wear batting gloves. Like Jorge, I slightly hunched over in my batting stance (until I realized it was easier to hit standing more upright). Like Jorge, I was a switch-hitting catcher.
Then, sometime in middle school, circa 2008, I heard about this local kid named Joe Panik. By that point, he was one of the best high school players in the state of New York and had committed to play baseball at St. John’s. And he lived five minutes from my house Chicago White Sox Jersey in Hopewell Junction and went to John Jay High School, where I would attend two years later. Suddenly, I had a new player who I wanted to be like, a player to whom I had a connection.
Of course, that connection was tangential at best—Panik and I never went to school together, and I’ve met him on less than a handful of occasions—but that didn’t matter to me. I had a player in whose footsteps I could follow. He gave me and my friends hope that we could be like him.
Last night Panik, 31, confirmed news that was first reported by the New York Post’s Jon Heyman: Panik has retired from Major League Baseball after eight seasons. The Giants selected him in the first round (29th) in the 2011 amateur draft as a shortstop; he moved over to second base as he ascended through the minor league system because Brandon Crawford had already established himself as San Francisco’s shortstop of the future. Panik debuted on June 21, 2014, and soon became the team’s starting second baseman. In 73 games, he slashed .305/.343/.368 and provided slick defense to help the Giants make the playoffs for the third time in five seasons. He went 3-for-5 in their NL Wild Card Game win over the Pirates, and he hit a key home run off Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright in NLCS Game 5, which the Giants won on Travis Ishikawa’s walk-off, series-clinching three-run homer in the ninth inning.
The highlight of Panik’s career came in Game 7 of the World Series against the Royals. With Lorenzo Cain on first base with nobody out In the third inning and the score tied 2–2, Eric Hosmer hit a ground ball up the middle. Diving to his right, Panik snagged the grounder and flipped with his glove to Crawford, who fired to first for what was eventually ruled a Cincinnati Bengals Jerseys double play after a replay review. Had the ball gone through, Cain would’ve advanced to third and given Kansas City runners on the corners with nobody out and a chance to break the game open. Instead, the next batter, Billy Butler, stepped to the plate with nobody on and two outs. He grounded out to short to end the inning. Madison Bumgarner came out of the bullpen to start the fifth and pitched five scoreless innings on two days’ rest to secure the Giants’ third World Series title in five years.