Torii Hunter (48) showing off his lighter side by celebrating with teammate Brian Dozier (2) after a win over the White Sox. Caylor Arnold-USA TODAY Sports
One of the most liked Los Angeles Angels players over the last 10 years, Torii Hunter, has decided to hang up his No. 48 jersey for the last time with his decision to retire after 19 seasons in the majors. Hunter played for the Los Angeles Angels for five years (2008-2012), hitting .286 with 105 home runs, 432 RBIs and 60 stolen bases.
During his time with the Angels, he helped lead them to their best regular season record in club history in 2008 (100-62). Then in 2009, Hunter hit .299 with 22 home runs and 90 RBIs, anchoring a lineup that included Vladimir Guerrero, Howie Kendrick, Bobby Abreu, Kendrys Morales and Chone Figgins. The Angels reached the ALCS in 2009 by knocking out Boston before falling to the New York Yankees in a six-game series. Hunter batted .272 in the playoffs that year, driving in seven runs with one homer. Hunter was named to the American League All-Star team in 2009 and took away two postseason awards, winning the Gold Glove and Silver Slugger Award for AL center fielders.
In his final year with the Angels in 2012, Hunter moved to right field early in the season to make way for Mike Trout, who burst on the scene in May and won the Rookie of the Year award. Trout credited Hunter for showing him the ropes during his rookie season. When his five-year, $90 million contract ended after the 2012 season, Hunter said he was hoping to re-sign with the Angels, but the team decided to let Hunter test the free agent market and Hunter promptly signed a 2-year, $26 million contract with the Detroit Tigers. In 2013 and 2014, Hunter helped the Tigers reach the postseason, again winning a Silver Slugger and Gold Glove Award in 2013 for the final time in his career. Hunter also made the 2013 AL All-Star team for the final time as well.
In 2015, Hunter signed a one-year contract with the Minnesota Twins, which was the team Hunter had played his first 10 seasons with from 1999 to 2008. Hunter did play six games with the Twins in 1998 during a September call-up, but 1999 was considered his rookie year. In his final season in 2015, Hunter’s batting average dipped to a career-low .240, but Hunter did hit 22 home runs and drive in 81 runs to help the Twins stay in contention for the AL wild card until the season’s final weekend.
Hunter retires with a career batting average of .277 while slugging 353 home runs and driving in 1,391 runs. He also stole 195 bases and also recorded 498 doubles. During his career, Hunter won nine Gold Gloves, two Silver Slugger Awards as well making the All-Star team five times. Hunter’s numbers probably will not be enough to get him into the Hall of Fame, but that does not mean he wasn’t an elite center fielder for most of his career.
I have a personal connection to Torii Hunter as I watched him play multiple times in 1995 and 1996 when he was a member of the Fort Myers Miracle, the Twins’ Single-A affiliate. I talked to him twice before games and Hunter was always very pleasant and congenial. Hunter teamed with current major leaguers David Ortiz and A.J. Pierzynski as well as former major leaguers Brad Radke, Corey Koskie, Chad Allen and Doug Mientkiewicz to lead the Miracle to a Florida State League Championship in 1995.
Fast-forward to 2008 when Hunter signed with the Los Angeles Angels. I was very happy as I knew he would be a great addition for the Angels both on and off the field. At the Angels’ photo day, I made a point to talk to Hunter when he came around and was posing for pictures with fans. He was an immediate fan favorite and took the time to do whatever he could to help fans get the perfect shot of him with their friends and loved ones. I said, “Torii I remembered talking to you when you played for the Fort Myers Miracle in 1995.” Hunter smiled and said “That was a ways back.” We proceeded to talk for a few minutes about Fort Myers and also about him coming to the Angels. He couldn’t have been any nicer.
So when I remember Torii Hunter and his 19-year major league career, I will not only think of his superb outfield defense or his ability to come through in the clutch. I will also remember that he played the game with heart and class, being a true role model to many young people and a mentor to countless players including Trout. Like Trout, Hunter is an MVP, but to me that means Most Valuable Person as well as a player.
Torii we will miss you!!!