As they dismounted the stage in AT&T Park’s center field where Madison Bumgarner had been presented with the MVP award of the Championship Series after the Giants won the National League pennant, general manager Brian Sabean turned to his 25-year old left-hander.
“What the hell are you going to do when you grow up?” Sabean asked.
Tuesday night, in Game 1 of the World Series against the Royals, Bumgarner will make his 11th postseason start, his 12th postseason appearance (he had one relief appearance against the Phillies in 2010). If the World Series goes five games, Bumgarner will become the third pitcher to make six starts in one postseason, (joining Curt Schilling of Arizona in 2001 and Chris Carpenter of St. Louis in 2011).
He’s the unquestioned ace of the Giants’ staff. And he enters the game’s biggest stage with two World Series victories under his belt.
It’s an impressive resume for a pitcher who is still just a (really) big kid.
Tim Hudson, 39, jokes that Bumgarner actually could be his kid. That’s pushing it (“Well, I’m from Alabama, you know,” Hudson cracked), but Hudson has taken on a parental role.
Bumgarner and his wife, Ali, moved into the Hudsons’ house in Cow Hollow about a week ago, after the Bumgarners’ lease ran out.
“I wasn’t going to put them out on the street,” Hudson said. “We’re like the Brady Bunch right now. Between my three kids and my two new kids, the house is kind of a wreck.”
The neighborhood at the base of Pacific Heights is a slightly different type of “cow hollow” from what Bumgarner is used to. His favorite place is his 125-acre home in rural North Carolina, where his perfect day would include getting up before dawn and feeding his 50 cows and 20 horses.
“He cares about horses,” Brandon Belt said. “That’s about it.”
Bumgarner, called “Maddy” by childhood friends in his hometown of Hudson — a town of 2,800 where everyone waves to each other — is a cowboy at heart. When he was a rookie, he and Ali stayed with Jeremy Affeldt, and Bumgarner practiced roping cattle by lassoing Affeldt’s patio furniture.
“I’d come home and he’d be spinning this rope, lassoing all my furniture,” Affeldt said.
Bumgarner did not perform that trick at the Hudsons’ home.
“I don’t think he brought his cowboy stuff with him,” Hudson said.
Well, except for his boots. Bumgarner always wears cowboy boots. Earlier this season, Pablo Sandoval tried on a pair of Bumgarner’s boots, then hit a home run. So after that, he started taking Bumgarner’s lucky boots into the dugout.
“I’d come back in and say, ‘Where my boots at?’ ” Bumgarner said. “So I just brought an old pair from home and told him, ‘Here, hold onto these until they stop working.’ ”
Bumgarner brings his cowboy mentality to the mound with him. At home games, he takes the field to the strains of the Marshall Tucker Band’s “Fire on the Mountain,” and there might not have been more fitting introduction music in the history of baseball. In addition to the refrain “fire on the mountain, lightning in the air,” the lyrics include these:
“Took my family away from our Carolina home, had dreams about the west and started to roam.”
When Bumgarner first left his Carolina home, drafted out of high school, he was terribly homesick. In the instructional league in Scottsdale, Ariz., in the summer of 2007, the 17-year old would shag balls in the outfield and look up in the sky to see planes flying overhead.
“Every time I saw one, I wished I was on it,” he told friends.
In Class A ball in Augusta, Ga., he went home every off day to see Ali and his family.
When he arrived in San Francisco at age 20, no one was quite sure what to make of the huge, quiet kid.
“I remember he was quiet. And big,” Tim Lincecum said. “I try to stay away from bigger guys.”
Bumgarner impressed his teammates right away, not only with his demeanor on the mound but also with his other abilities. On a trip to Colorado, the team bus broke down. Bumgarner was sitting in the back, yelled, “I’ll take care of it,” popped the hood and helped get the bus running again.
“He’s got skill for days,” Javier Lopez said. “He can rope things, fix diesel engines. The biggest shock is that he’s just so young and yet so polished. Not only the mental aspects but with all the different pressures and gravity of each game.”
Matt Cain has seen the same thing.
“He’s matured mentally with the way he goes about his game plan,” Cain said. “It doesn’t look like he ever gets flustered with the speed of the game. In big situations, too often we try to do something way different. But he does a good job of settling in and just letting it happen.”
Bumgarner is crafting his own legend.
“He’s a mystery,” Hudson said. “He’s like a unicorn. Is he real or is he not?”
He’s real. Real young, and real good.
Ann Killion is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. E-mail: akillion@ sfchronicle.com Twitter: @annkillion