SAN FRANCISCO — Camilo Doval sometimes needs to cool off during a stressful ninth inning. When catcher Joey Bart makes his walk to the mound for a chat, Wilmer Flores is often not far behind.
Flores, fluent in English and Spanish, can serve as a translator to ease communication on the mound, but more importantly he’s provides veteran perspective and guidance. That’s gone beyond mound visits. Flores has become a calming presence to a clubhouse in flux; A player whose earned an everyday role on a team that relies on platoons.
Except for disappointment and the Kiss Cam, there haven’t been few constants at Oracle Park this year. That Flores has become not just a constant, but a team leader, has earned him the Willie Mac award — considered the most prestigious award the Giants give.
“I think he’s one of the most universally respected players in our clubhouse as well as in the game,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “I think he’s respected for his consistency and his dedication to the Giants and to tuning his teammates up.”
“He’s been a really popular guy in the clubhouse,” president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi said earlier this month. “He’s been popular with our bench and us in the front office because of his versatility and producing. It has been a nice fit and we expect it to be a nice fit even as this team evolves.”
It’s been quite the year for Flores, who played himself into a two-year, $13 million extension with a mutual option with the Giants earlier this month. He’s carved a spot as a core part of this team for years to come after playing a team-high 146 games, hitting 19 home runs (second to Joc Pederson) and becoming a poster boy for positional versatility.
A longtime Met early in his career, Flores has found a home in San Francisco. He signed with the Giants on a three-year contract in 2020 and pushed to get a deal done so he could stay.
“I just wanted to come back here,” Flores said. “I love everyone here. Playing in San Francisco makes me feel good. You can’t buy that. We wanted to get it done, so we got it done.”
For manager Gabe Kapler, Flores’ leadership shows by example. He’s always the first player to text in the team group chat about organizing batting practice and first player in the cage on the field, Kapler said.
The Giants have given the Willie Mac Award to the player who best exemplifies the spirit and leadership consistently, named after Willie McCovey. The first award was given in 1980 to Jack Clark. LaMonte Wade Jr. and Mike Yastrzemski have won the last two seasons. Other winners include Buster Posey during his 2012 MVP season, Madison Bumgarner before his World Series heroics in 2014 and Mike Krukow back-to-back in 1985 and 1986.