The LA Angels Major League Baseball team has been hit with numerous injuries in 2019, so it should come as no surprise that their minor league teams have had their share of players on the IL this season as well.
One of the LA Angels prospects who has a familiar name, Torii Hunter Jr.was having a decent year for the High Single-A Inland Empire. He was selected to represent the South All-Stars in the California League All-Star Game in June, but just before the All-Star break Hunter Jr was hit by a pitch in his hand and suffered a fractured wrist.
Hunter Jr. then had to go through the long rehab that included a trip to the Arizona Rookie League to play some games, before he was finally able to return to the 66ers for the final three weeks of the season. Throughout the time he was injured, Hunter Jr. had to keep himself in shape so that he would be ready to comeback when his wrist was fully healed.
“Anytime your missing out on playing baseball it’s mentally tough as you feel like you’re getting left behind. All the guys are out there getting better and you’re just at home trying to heal trying to pass the time by,” Hunter said. “When I went to Arizona to rehab it helped a lot. Being with the guys there who were in the same boat was very helpful. Even had a few guys from our team out there which was good for me. We just found ways to compete.”
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Hunter returned in early August and finished the season strong for the 66ers going 18 for 55 (.328) in his last 15 games of the season. He finished with a .251 batting average one home run with 27 runs batted in and he also stole 16 bases with Hunter’s OBP being .361. While these number’s are definitely not spectacular you can see Hunter’s athleticism and his ability to create chaos on the bases.
In his final home game of the season on August 26th Hunter reached base on an infield hit, stole second, then stole third, and scored on an errant throw, thus manufacturing a run.
“It was kind of weird when I first came back, but I was happy to get back out there,” Hunter said. “I just tried to stick with one approach not trying to change too much. I like to use my speed to make things happen.”
After making the transition from football to baseball upon leaving Notre Dame it has been a learning curve for Hunter, but he remains positive and upbeat about the process.
“This offseason I’m going to work really hard to get better. I will try to increase my arm strength and fine-tune my hitting,” Hunter said.
An advantage Hunter has over many players is that he gets to work with his dad Torii Hunter Sr, who was a 17-year MLB veteran with the Twins, Angels, and Tigers. Hunter Sr. Was a 10-time Gold Glove winner and 5-time all-star who was known for his glove and his ability to make things happen.
“My dad is the main guy I work with as he has been through it,” Hunter Jr said. “He knows all the good workouts to do and will push me to get better.”
Hunter Jr is now three years removed from leaving Notre Dame and you might think that he would have second thoughts of leaving football behind, but it is quite the opposite.
“I still feel like I made the right decision. I do miss the atmosphere of playing football for Notre Dame, but other than that I’m happy with where I am.” Hunter Jr said. “You just have to continue to grind and believe in your abilities.”