Hunter enjoys role as special assistant at spring training
FORT MYERS, Fla. — Torii Hunter teased his former Twins teammates, joked with fans and ran sprints in the outfield.
But he steered clear of the bat rack.
"I think I’m going through withdrawal every time I see a bat," he said Saturday, a smile flashing across his face. "I’m going to stay away from the bats."
Hunter, who retired last November at 40 after 19 seasons in the big leagues, was on hand as one of Minnesota’s special assistants during the first full day of workouts.
Bouncing all around the complex, the All-Star outfielder was full of energy.
"Just to be around the guys, the camaraderie, the chemistry, that’s what I love. That’s what I miss. It was good to be around," he said.
Jogging from Field 4 to Field 6 early in the workouts, he yelled to the fans: "Working harder for a lot less."
At one point, Hunter was perched atop a platform on the back of the batting cage at home plate, cheering on some on the club’s young stars. After slugger Miguel Sano swung and missed a fastball from Glen Perkins, Hunter offered encouraged in Spanish.
When the workouts ended, Hunter ran in the outfield and the stadium’s stairs behind third base.
But it was the thought of picking up a bat that had him joking most.
"Oh, no, I won’t go near that bat," he said. "Guys were trying to get me to hit in the cage. I can’t go near that bat or I might get that itch. If I touch a bat and swing, I’m going to go crazy and talk to (GM) Terry Ryan in the front office and see if we can work out a deal."
Hunter decided it was time to end his career — that included more than a decade with the Twins — despite some prodding to stay one more year from one of his closest friends in the game, Red Sox star David Ortiz, who announced that this would be his last season on his 40th birthday last November.
"He tried to convince me to go one more year and go out with him," Hunter said. "I had to. My family needed me. It was time. The game was changing."
His former teammates were certainly glad to have him around, but know retirement is an adjustment.
"I told him, `You better not get that close because I know you’re going to get that itch to take some swings,’" infielder Trevor Plouffe said. "He told me Katrina, his wife, said not to touch a bat, not to put a glove on."
Hunter hit 22 home runs with 81 RBIs while batting .240 last season.
"Not only was he a great player last year, but he helped studying pitchers and just knowing guys around the league. When you play as long as he did, that’s what you learn to do. He’s trying to pass that along to us," Plouffe said.
NOTES: Korean slugger Byung Ho Park, signed as a free agent during the offseason, had about a dozen reporters following his every move. "He — like a lot of other people — was able to take advantage of live batting practice to continue to progress to get ready for game pitching," manager Paul Molitor said. "He’s a got a lot of positive things." . RHP Casey Fien’s wife, Joann, gave birth to the couple’s second child — a boy they named Shane Maddux, born at 6 pounds, 20 inches — Saturday morning.
- ByungHo Park
- Casey Fien
- FOX Sports North
- Glen Perkins
- Miguel Sano
- Minnesota Twins
- Torii Hunter
- Trevor Plouffe