MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Torii Hunter has concluded his playing career of 19 major league seasons, including more than a decade with the Minnesota Twins.
The 40-year-old has a strong desire to stay in the game, though. He just can’t quit.
“I don’t want to sit out too long. I want to get right back in it,” Hunter said Thursday.
Hunter has been transitioning out of the dugout, letting his body recover from the grind of 2,372 major league games. He’s been watching his three sons play college football and catching up on down time with his wife, Katrina, whom he called his “foundation” during a 20-minute reflection on the people who guided his journey. He was up at 4 a.m. to prepare it.
“Without you,” Hunter said to his wife, “I wouldn’t have had any success.”
From poor kid in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, to first-round draft pick to struggling minor leaguer to five-time All-Star with nine Gold Glove awards, Hunter has come a long way. There’s still an undiscovered path ahead of him, too.
Hunter said he’s already fielded offers from different networks about serving as a television analyst. He has spoken informally with Twins general manager Terry Ryan about a role in the organization and planned to dine with owner Jim Pohlad to further discuss that future.
“Going to make him pay,” Hunter said, with one of many familiar quips throughout a 48-minute farewell news conference to match his jersey number with the Twins, the team he was drafted by in 1993, debuted with in 1997 and returned to for one last season in 2015.
The room at Target Field was packed with Twins employees and officials. Former teammates Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau and Corey Koskie were there, as was Hunter’s first manager, Tom Kelly. The surprising sight of Morneau sitting in the front row clearly touched Hunter, who wept as Ryan introduced him with a long list of accolades and attributes including a recitation of all the standouts he played with.
“I suspect that every one of these guys would tell you that Torii made them better,” Ryan said.
Hunter recalled kindling his love for baseball as a youth, watching Chicago Cubs games on superstation WGN with his grandfather while admiring slugger Andre Dawson. He thanked Kelly for serving as a tough-love father figure whose final year as a manager was also Hunter’s breakthrough season, 2001. He mentioned Kirby Puckett and Harmon Killebrew, the late Twins Hall of Famers who made significant impacts on his outlook. He praised the energy he gained from Twins fans from all those games in front of them.
“I’m going to miss that. There’s nowhere in this world that you’re going to get that elevation,” Hunter said.
Hunter had talks with the Kansas City Royals last winter before signing with the Twins, but he said he had no regrets about missing out on a World Series ring. He expressed his appreciation of being able to play in the postseason eight times. Citing a Bible verse from the book of Proverbs about ironing sharpening iron, Hunter said he was grateful to be able to mentor the young players with the Twins this year during a surprising 83-79 finish that had them in wild card contention until the second-to-last day of the season.
Coaching? Hunter didn’t sound interested in the travel.
He’ll no doubt find a future as a tutor of sorts to the next generation of players, however.
“I’m retired from the field, but I’m a baseball guy, man,” he said. “That’s all I know. I want to be in it.”
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