A Tribute to Torii Hunter
After 19 seasons in the majors (12 with the Twins), Torii Hunter has officially retired from baseball. Hunter has been contemplating retirement for over two years now, and the 40 year old outfielder has finally made his decision to leave the game. Torii willingly walks into life after baseball after finishing right where he started, in a Minnesota Twins uniform.
After being the face of our franchise for most of the 2000’s, collecting nine consecutive Gold Glove Awards (seven with the Twins), making five All-Star teams, earning two Silver Slugger Awards, and leading the Twins to six AL Central division titles, Torii found a true home here in Minnesota. He helped front-line for a generation of Minnesota sports alongside KG and #84 in an era that will never be forgotten.
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But Torii’s influence on the game stretched far beyond the borders of the North Star State. He meant far more than just his highlight real catches (who could forget the 2002 All-Star Game?), classic bat flips, and arguably the most contagious smile the game has ever seen. He touched fans, players, and coaches everywhere he traveled, as he was able to find homes in Detroit and LA in the ladder half of his career, becoming key components to playoff rosters and putting together some of his best offensive seasons. He showed young players everywhere, on baseball’s grandest stage, what it meant to truly love playing America’s pastime. He has also been a strong and vocal advocate nation wide for expanding the number of young African Americans playing baseball.
Now, Torii could have announced his retirement before the start of this past season, receiving praise and thanks for all his years dedicated to the game, but he chose to do so humbly and with class, the way one should leave the game. “I didn’t want a going away tour,” Hunter said. “I didn’t want to be a distraction.” Torii made this year about the team, not himself, something great leaders do. And boy was he vital to the success this years’ team had. Not only did he deliver 22 home runs and 81 RBI, but he showed this young and talented group first-hand what it meant to be a big leaguer and to play the game the right way, with passion and dedication. Torii gladly paved the way for a new generation of athletes in Minnesota.
Aside from his obviously strong work ethic, Torii brought an entire new level of enthusiasm to an organization in desperate need of rejuvenation. After all, not many would expect a 40 year-old veteran to be leading locker room dance parties with fog machines after victories.
There’s no telling what life has in store for Hunter moving forward. It’s hard to see him leaving the game entirely, for his personality and insight suits him perfectly for some sort of analyst/commentator position for a major program, but one thing is for certain, he will be greatly missed come next spring. It’s impossible to repay him for what he has done for the sport, but his time on the field has now come and gone. The man left the game in the same fashion that he came into it, with class and a gigantic smile. From baseball fans everywhere, thank you Torii.