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From minor league free agent to postseason hero: How Travis Ishikawa became a Giant

The pennant-clinching hero was a minor league free agent in April and drew interest from the Blue Jays, Nationals and Rangers before returning to the Giants' organization.

Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

So often in today's game, postseason heroes are bona fide stars who have been there before, and are expected to produce at a high level on the biggest stage. Travis Ishikawa is not one of those names, but will forever live in postseason lore thanks to his pennant-clinching three-run home run that sent the Giants to the World Series last Thursday.

Ishikawa's journey to the spotlight is not a common one, as he represents one of the best examples of one team's trash being another's immediate treasure. After signing a minor league deal with the Pirates last offseason, Ishikawa made the big league club out of spring training before stumbling to a .206/.263/.382 line in 15 games and being designated for assignment by the Bucs on April 19. He decided to elect free agency instead of accepting an assignment to Triple-A Indianapolis, and hit the open market at the end of April in search for a new opportunity.

Being in limbo was a familiar feeling for Ishikawa, who was designated for assignment by both the Orioles and Yankees in a two-week span in 2013. He appeared in only seven major league games that season, notching two hits in 19 at-bats before electing minor league free agency and spending the end of the season with the White Sox Triple-A affiliate.

When Ishikawa hit free agency in April, sources say, the Giants expressed strong interest along with the Nationals and Rangers, with the Blue Jays and some other teams inquiring as well. Ishikawa agreed to a minor league deal with San Francisco on April 24, citing his familiarity with the organization as the key factor in choosing the Giants over other interested clubs. Because he spent four seasons in San Francisco between 2006 and 2010, Ishikawa was comfortable heading to Triple-A Fresno, with the condition that the club would grant him him his release for any Triple-A opportunity that arose throughout the season.

The Giants called Ishikawa up to the majors in late July after he hit .271 with eleven home runs for Fresno, and he kept his major league job by posting a .274/.333/.397 line while showing positional versatility at both first base and left field. He has hit .269 with his one iconic home run this postseason, providing a solid bat for a San Francisco club that is now more proud than ever of their diamond-in-the-rough pickup.