DETROIT — When you see Torii Hunter’s smiling face on television doing post-game interviews, it’s easy to imagine him sliding right onto a TV set when his playing career is over.
Now 39 and in his 18th season in the big leagues, Hunter is focused on achieving the one goal he has not yet accomplished — winning the World Series.
But Hunter admits that he has given his future quite a bit of thought, and what he’s thinking might surprise some people.
"At the end of everything, I think my goal is to own a baseball team," Hunter said. "I don’t know who with. I hear (Yankees shortstop Derek) Jeter wants to own a team. Hopefully we can get together and do some things. But that’s definitely my main goal is to go out and own a ball club."
Hunter played 11 years for the Minnesota Twins, five for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and the past two for the Tigers.
While he saw many African-Americans doing well, he did not see many in the owner’s box.
"There’s not a lot of them and I don’t think there’s one of them," Hunter said. "Magic (Johnson), he owns a percentage. Magic is pretty much the only one that I know about. I had a chance to talk to him two years ago about business and (he’s a) bright man. He inspired me in a lot of different ways the last couple years to go on and do some business in venture capitalism, VC, and angel investing, different things like that. He inspired me to push on."
Hunter said he’s spoken to many other businessmen besides Johnson, picking their brains about what might be possible for him.
"That’s the only way you can learn, you have to go and get it from somebody that’s been there before because that’s not my part," Hunter said. "My bread and butter is baseball. A doctor’s bread and butter is to save lives. A lawyer’s bread and butter is to convict or save someone. Everybody has their niche. If you went into the financial world, it wouldn’t be your niche. It’s something that you have to learn. And that’s what we have to do as athletes as well. If we go to something else, we have to learn it."
Although his primary interest is in owning a team, Hunter is definitely open to doing television work.
Not surprisingly, he’s already been approached by several networks.
"It’s pretty awesome," Hunter said. "I really like MLB Network, I like FOX. TBS has approached me, sometimes ESPN. But a lot of networks have approached me. They always want you to do the playoffs and different things. But my sons are in college playing football on weekends, I can’t really do it. But for right now, my main focus is playing baseball."
Hunter has also considered front office work, especially watching general managers like Terry Ryan in Minnesota and Dave Dombrowski in Detroit.
"I’ve always wanted to do that, run my own ball club and pick my own players and put them on the field and let people know I could pick that talent out as well," Hunter said. "It’s a tougher job than you think. Just watching Dave Dombrowski, Terry Ryan all these years, they have tough decisions."
Hunter said he has taken the opportunity to talk to Dombrowski, asking him why he made certain moves or decisions. He’s also offered his own opinions from the perspective of a player.
"That’s one of the reasons why I’m here, because of that man right there," Hunter said. "He has such a brilliant mind, why wouldn’t you want to learn from him? If I could ever be under him, just to learn from him, I would love to."
The one thing Hunter is not currently considering is remaining in the game as a coach.
"It’s a big time commitment," Hunter said. "For 21 years I’ve been playing the game of baseball and missing all my kids’ years. I’m not the only one that has ever been through that. I’m sure there’s a lot of players, a lot of coaches that’s been through that as well and they’re still coaching. But if I could, I’d like to take a break for a while and then I’d come back.
"Me knowing the game, that’s not going anywhere. It’s not gonna leave my mind. I still know how to play the game no matter what. If I wanted to come back five years from now and then start coaching, that’s what it’s gonna be. But I need some ‘me’ time, and my family needs me."
Hunter understands that doors have opened for him because of his high-profile profession and his engaging personality and he makes sure to tell his younger teammates to take advantage of those things.
"I just tell them, hey, man, carry yourself the right way," Hunter said. "You are your own entity. If you carry yourself the right way, you play the game hard, you do what you gotta do but you also talk to the fans, you talk to the media, you do your commercial shoots and do it with fun, do it with a smile and have energy and be yourself. You can’t get everybody because everybody’s different.
"But all you can do is try to lead them the right way and show them the right way and hopefully they drink the water."
At the end of everything, I think my goal is to own a baseball team.
No matter what Hunter does in his post-playing career, whether it’s in television, in the front office, in business or eventually owning a team, he expects to be as successful as he has been as a player.
"One thing that I have in me is that ability to learn," Hunter said. "All these years in baseball, you have to learn. I don’t care if you’re 40 to 50, you’re still going to learn something in baseball. If you stop learning, baseball will kick you out of the game. So I have the ability to keep learning.
"If I go to the next chapter of my life, whatever it may be, I’m gonna learn. And I want to be the best at it."