Torii Hunter has put together a pretty amazing resume during his 17-year career in the major leagues.
The Detroit Tigers right fielder and Pine Bluff native has won nine Gold Glove awards and just played in his fifth All-Star Game earlier this week in New York.
However, the 37-year-old Hunter still yearns for one thing after all these years in the major leagues. He wants to play in a World Series.
Hunter has been to the postseason six times, four times with the Minnesota Twins and twice with the Los Angeles Angels. Hunter reached the American League Championship Series twice, with the Twins in 2002 and Angels in 2009 but has not been able to take that step to the Fall Classic.
“That’s the missing piece for me,” Hunter said earlier this week during the All-Star festivities in New York. “That’s why I’m still playing. I want that ring so badly. If I get it then it’ll be time to pack it in.”
Hunter is in the first year of a two-year, $26-millon contract he signed last November with the Tigers as a free agent. He was one of the first free agents to agree to terms with a team last winter.
“I knew I wanted to play for a team with a legitimate chance to win the World Series and the Tigers definitely have that,” Hunter said. “I really believe that this is my best shot yet to finally get to the World Series.”
The Tigers resume play tonight after four days off for the All-Star break by playing the Royals in Kansas City and hold a 1 1/2 –game lead over the Cleveland Indians in the AL Central.
The Tigers won the AL pennant last season but were swept in four games by the San Francisco Giants in the World Series. However, the Tigers have a star-studded team that includes third baseman Miguel Cabrera, the reigning AL Triple Crown winner and Most Valuable Player, along with first baseman Prince Fielder and right-handed pitchers Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer and Anibal Sanchez.
Hunter fits the Tigers perfectly as the No. 2 hitter in the lineup between center fielder Austin Jackson and Cabrera, hitting .315 with seven home runs and 44 RBIs in 84 games. Hunter is also still a solid defensive player at an advanced age.
Plus, the always-upbeat Hunter adds a certain presence to any clubhouse. That is why Detroit manager Jim Leyland asked Hunter to give the pre-game speech to the American League team before it beat the National League 3-0 in the All-Star Game.
“You won’t find a better person than Torii,” Leyland said. “He is a real positive person and he the personality where everyone in the clubhouse loves him. He’s been a joy to have on our club.”
Leyland then paused.
“He’s still a helluva player,” the veteran skipper said. “The players voted him into the All-Star Game and that’s always a great player when your peers recognize how good you are. He’s a great guy but don’t forget that he can still play.”
Even if Hunter isn’t likely to play past next season as his son, Torii Jr., will be a freshman football player at Notre Dame this fall. Dad would like to see his son play as many games for the Fighting Irish as he can.
“It’s gone by so fast,” Hunter said of his career. “I still love playing and I feel like I’m still playing at a high level. At some point, you’ve got to walk away and I feel that time is getting nearer.”