NEW YORK – Torii Hunter was in a mood to reminisce Monday.
Prior to the American League working out at Citi Field in advance of Tuesday night’s All-Star Game, the
Detroit Tigers right fielder reminisced about his formative years as a baseball player, the first of his
previous four Midsummer Classics and how he is able to perform at a high level at age 37.
“I’m trying to enjoy every moment of this,” said Hunter, a Pine Bluff High School graduate. “My career is almost over. This might be my last All-Star Game and I want to make sure I savor it.”
Hunter certainly doesn’t look like a player headed for the boneyard in his first season with the American League Central — leading Tigers after signing a two-year, $26-milion contract as a free agent in the offseason. He is hitting .314 with seven home runs in 84 games while playing his usual strong defense.
“He’s everything we thought he would be and more,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. “He’s done a great job for us and you won’t find a better person than Torii. We’re thrilled to have him.”
A few tables over from Hunter during the American League team’s media availability was Los Angeles
Angels outfielder Mike Trout.
Trout was talking his favorite childhood All-Star moment, which came in the 2002 game in Milwaukee when Hunter, then Minnesota’s center fielder and a first-time All-Star, reached high above the fence to steal a home run away from all-time homer leader Barry Bonds. Hunter then was playfully lifted off the ground by Bonds as he trotted back toward the dugout.
“That was my favorite moment, too,” said Hunter, who also played in the All-Star Game in 2007, 2009
Hunter and Trout were teammates with the Los Angeles Angels the last two seasons.
“I guess I should feel old that one of my old teammates remembers me playing when he was a kid,” Hunter said. “But I don’t still feel old. I still feel like I am in great shape and a productive player.”
Hunter was then asked about his Little League days.
“I’ll always remember the first time I played baseball and how much it was,” Hunter said. “You wonder
where all the years have gone but I still think back to that and how I thought it would be cool to play in the major leagues. I still feel like that same kid today. I love the game as much as ever.”
Hunter has been playing in the big leagues since 1998 and his peers still believe in his talent as he was voted on to the AL team as a reserve in a vote of the league’s players. Hunter admits winning the player vote was extra special.
“The guys you can’t fool in this game are the other players,” Hunter said. “They know who can still play and who can’t.”