Buster Posey grateful to enter Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame with Patrick Willis, others

SAN FRANCISCO – Buster Posey was not just any athlete who passed through town, won a few championships, and earned a spot Thursday night in the Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame.

It turns out he’s a legacy.

“My mom actually lived in San Francisco when she was a toddler,” Posey said. “My grandad was an orthopedist in the Army, and they were stationed here for a couple of years.”

Col. Jack Tippens and his wife, Lyn, “talked about really enjoying living here.” So did their daughter Traci’s son, Gerald “Buster” Posey III, who was drafted by the Giants 15 years ago and served as a franchise cornerstone at catcher from 2009-21.

That baseball legacy could put Posey someday into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. – “We’ll see, we’ll see,” he said – but Thursday night brought him to be honored in downtown San Francisco for the Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame enshrinement ceremony.

Joining him in this year’s class: former 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis, Oakland basketball legend Gary Payton, boxing champion Andre Ward, and soccer star Julie Foudy, who took special pride in being the lone woman of that group whose plaques will join those displayed inside San Francisco International Airport.

“It’s bittersweet to be back, because our oldest twins are here with us tonight, and we raised them here, their first 11 years of life,” Posey, 36, said.

Having relocated in the past year to his native Georgia — just north of Atlanta, rather than his childhood hometown of Leesburg — Posey returned to town this past week with his wife, Kristen, and their two sets of twins, ages 11 and 2.

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When they weren’t reuniting with friends back near their old digs in Lafayette, Posey was golfing a few rounds at Orinda Country Club, and, of course, keeping an eye on the Giants, having joined their ownership group last September.

Posey classifies himself as a fan, however, and one who’s thrilled at the immediate success stirred by rookies Casey Schmitt and Patrick Bailey.

“When you have that young injection of energy, it’s palpable. You can feel it through the TV screen,” Posey said. “Hopefully that’s something we can ride and win a lot more games.

“It’s kind of what happened in 2008, ’09, ’10 and on. You need that stuff. Young players, a lot of time, you hear it talked about how their energy can rub off on a guy who’s been doing it a while. It’s true. That’s stuff is contagious.”

It sure was once Posey took over the full-time starting role in 2010, when the Giants won their first of three World Series titles over a five-year span.

“Aside from those three rings, Posey’s accolades are plentiful: seven-time All-Star, 2012 National League MVP, 2010 N.L. Rookie of the Year, two-time National League Comeback Player of the Year (2012, 2021), 2012 N.L. batting champion.

Drafted fifth overall on June 5, 2008, the one-time Florida State shortstop (freshman year) retired in November 2021. Six months later, the Giants honored him with “Buster Posey Day.” He said he’s in great health, which is great news considering the ankle and hip issues he overcame with the Giants.

“I’ve had enough time now to reflect on (his career), to be so grateful for really so many people that helped me along the way – teammates, coaches, wife, kids, parents, grandparents, probably could go on and on,” Posey said. “As I’ve had time to think, what does all of this really mean? It’s memories with people.”

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Willis, 38, was thrilled to enter the Hall of Fame alongside Posey and found the timing apropos. Willis was drafted in 2007 by the 49ers, and he was at the height of his seven-time Pro Bowl powers while Posey was winning World Series titles.

“Buster Posey was holding it down at the catcher position for the Giants, then Stephen Curry came to the Bay Area (in 2009), and, right around that time, I was starting to feel the groove,” Willis recalled. “It felt pretty special to be one of those pillars in the Bay Area, and now to be recognized for it, it’s truly an honor.”

Willis made sure to introduce not only himself — and his sister and nieces — to Posey before Thursday’s ceremony, and, in return, Lee Posey shook Willis’ hand. Then the two Bay Area sports titans talked about their southern roots — Willis is from Tennessee — and amicably chatted like old friends for 15 minutes.

What do the next 15 years have in store for Posey?

“Oh my gosh, I’ve got four kids, so I just go day to day. I don’t think about that much. I really don’t know,” Posey answered. “I would say 15 years ago, I could probably have answered that question more succinctly, with an idea of what I was hopeful for.

“Now, I’m trying to just be in the moment, enjoying each day with the kids and watching them learn and grow, trying to teach them some lessons I learned along the way.”

Rather than coach, however, he’s become a “tennis dad” watching his older, 11-year-old twins compete in that sport. His son, Lee, modestly said at Thursday’s pre-ceremony reception that he plays up a level against 14-year-olds. Asked if he wears his dad’s World Series rings, he humorously replied that he doesn’t go into his dad’s safe too often.

About those titles, “I don’t think I would have hoped for three. I would have hoped for one, and hoped to have established myself as a Major League baseball player. It’s more than anything I could have dreamed of.”

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