Joc Pederson practices with his new team. (Photo/©S.F. Giants)
Joc Pederson practices with his new team. (Photo/©S.F. Giants)

Palo Alto-born Jewish slugger Joc Pederson returns home to play for Giants

After the San Francisco Giants won their first World Series in 2010, a teenage Joc Pederson traveled with some friends from Palo Alto to attend the victory parade in downtown San Francisco — with World Series dreams of his own.

Pederson, then 18, had just been drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Now, 12 years later and after earning back-to-back World Series rings with the Dodgers in 2020 and the Atlanta Braves last year, Pederson has returned to his Bay Area roots by signing a one-year, $6 million contract with the Giants on March 16.

“I did grow up in the Bay Area and I do know that it’s 2022 and it’s an even year,” Pederson said to reporters at spring training in Arizona, alluding to the Giants’ World Series titles of 2010, 2012 and 2014. “I’m taking an educated guess that we’ve got a good chance to win the World Series.”

The signing marks a reunion of sorts for Pederson. When the outfielder played for Team Israel in 2012 in the qualifying round of the World Baseball Classic, one of the team’s coaches was Gabe Kapler, now manager of the Giants.

Pederson, who will turn 30 on April 22, told reporters he’s looking forward to playing for his hometown team in what will be his ninth big-league season. He said he grew up a Giants fan and attended several home games with friends and family, including the final game at Candlestick Park in 1999.

Being closer to home, Pederson will be able to spend more time with his family, all of whom were heavily into sports when he was growing up. They didn’t take part in Jewish rituals, although Joc and his siblings (Champ, Tyger and Jacey) occasionally went to the bar and bat mitzvahs of friends or enjoyed Hanukkah at a friend’s house, Tyger told J. in 2015.

Pederson was able to suit up for Israel in 2012 after his mom, Shelly, made a trip to Congregation Beth Sholom, the San Francisco synagogue where her late father, Larry Cahn, had his bar mitzvah, to get proof of Joc’s Jewish heritage. He played right field and batted second for Israel, which failed to advance out of the qualifying round.

Pederson’s reunion with Kapler as “members of the tribe” in the Giants dugout comes after the third-year manager led the team to a franchise-record 107 victories last season, earning him the National League Manager of the Year Award.

In November 2019, Pederson was inducted into the Jewish Sports Hall of Fame of Northern California at the age of 27. He took part in the induction banquet at the Four Seasons hotel in San Francisco along with brother Champ, who has Down syndrome and has spoken publicly about the genetic disorder. The following year, Pederson was inducted into the Southern California Jewish Sports Hall of Fame.

Last year, in 137 regular-season games playing with the Chicago Cubs and Atlanta Braves, the left-hander hit 18 home runs and had 61 RBIs with a .238 batting average. His best stretch was from 2015, his rookie year, to 2019. In four of those five seasons, all with the Dodgers, he hit 25 or more homers. He left the Dodgers as a free agent after the 2020 season, signing with the Cubs, who then traded him to Atlanta in the middle of the 2021 season.

During last year’s playoff run with Atlanta, he belted three home runs and drove in nine runs, and became just the ninth player in history to win back-to-back World Series with two different teams.

Known by the nickname “Joctober” for his postseason prowess, Pederson  played a vital role in 2020 in helping the Dodgers break a 32-year drought without a World Series title, hitting .382 with two home runs in the playoffs that year.

For the Giants, Pederson likely will be counted on to supply some left-handed power to launch balls into McCovey Cove. The veteran outfielder should find himself in an everyday role patrolling the outfield at Oracle Park alongside Mike Yastrzemski, LaMonte Wade Jr., Austin Slater, Darin Ruf, and Steven Duggar.

Michael Gutnick

J. correspondent