My Favorite Angel Part 3: Torii Hunter and Jered Weaver
By Ryan Falla
Jered Weaver/Torii Hunter My favorite Angels. This article was submitted by our own Ryan Falla and is the third of four parts of a Series the Halo Hangout staff did on who was their first Angel player they connected with.
Angel fans, I know I’m a bit of a late bloomer considering the history of Angel greats that have graced the organization with their presence and ability, but my turning point as a die-hard Angels fan came during the rise of Jered Weaver and tenure of Torii Hunter. I had always been an Angels fan before then, and I did deeply enjoy the various personas of the early 2000s Angels, yet what really cemented my heart was the realization that the game of baseball is a host of deep, dynamic personalities with stories waiting to be told. Again, I know I’m a late bloomer, but this was all during my formative high school years when I was still coming to understand the world around me, especially the world of baseball and sports.
Jered Weaver and Torii Hunter in tandem are the athletes who made me fall deeper in love with the Angels and the sport in general than I ever thought possible. There was something about how they represented leadership that spoke to me, and thousands of fans alike;
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Jered Weaver was a ferocious bulldog on the mound, one who could get your blood hot and steaming with his aggressively competitive persona which he fairly backed up with incredible pitching. Jered Weaver showed me what a truly dominating, competitive persona looks like while still maintaining respect for the game and the athletes in it. Growing up I had always heard the baseball naysayers complain how it is a boring sport with little excitement or energy to be found, but with Jered Weaver I could just point to his performances and say “this is what energy looks like”
My sentiments towards Torii Hunter flow almost the same way, but with a couple of tweaks here and there. While Jered Weaver represented the fiery, take no prisoners attitude, Torii Hunter exemplified the jovial love of the sport and the strength of kind, positive leadership that seemed to eclipse what it meant to be a leader. Torii Hunter wasn’t just a teammate or a mentor; Torii Hunter was a brother and a friend to his teammates, he was practically a father-figure to all the young prospects breaking their way into the big leagues for the first time. His positive leadership and status as the role-model amongst role-models not only brought child-like joy and wonder into the game, it showed us that greatness could be lived with humility, friendliness, and a beaming personality that could bring a smile to even the most hardened sports fan.
Torii Hunter has extra-special meaning in my life because he was the first professional athlete I ever interviewed, this was back in my college days when I was a little shimpy 18 year old (compared to the shrimpy 27 year old I am now). This was the start of a career path I had no idea I would end up following, at the time I was just enjoying having an outlet for writing (which also happened to be for my favorite team) in which I could weave my own sense of creative writing and storytelling into the factual and statistically minded world of sports writing.
Both Torii Hunter and Jered Weaver taught me that there was more to an athlete than just his performance, perhaps this was the most significant lesson I learned not just in writing, but in life. This isn’t just reporting on athletes and their performances, these are the stories of human beings, and at the end of the day everything becomes more significant under the perspective of telling the story of a person and not just reporting the facts surrounding an athlete.
I learned how to approach sports writing as a story-telling medium instead of a purely journalistic one because Jered Weaver and Torii Hunter made me ponder the questions of who these athletes really are deep down inside, mentally and emotionally, and question the “whys, and hows” of who they were and why they did what they did in life.
Once I began asking these questions with Torii Hunter and Jered Weaver I began to understand that every athlete had a deep, human story hidden behind the daily grind and romantic glamour of the baseball lifestyle, and I wanted to find out that story behind each athlete and share it with the world. Maybe not every athlete had as exciting or explosive a personality as Weaver and Hunter shared with us, but nonetheless there was something worth exploring with everyone.
After my first interview with Torii Hunter, after experiencing his warm personality and radiant joy which was so beaming it was practically palpable, I left thinking “I really need to do that again.” And I ended up doing it again, and again, for nearly a decade at this point, and I have never stopped nor do I ever plan to stop. All thanks to Torii Hunter and Jered Weaver.