Famous in Minnesota for turning would-be home runs into spectacular outs — and for expressing his friendly nature — Torii Hunter parlayed all of his skills into a $90-million free-agent contract with the Los Angeles Angels last offseason.
In Anaheim, Hunter is helping the Halos maintain first place in the AL West, and both his production and his personality continue to win fans with one possible exception — a fellow who ran into Hunter's 2-week-old $250,000 automobile in April.
But despite the new address and car trouble, Hunter remains as engaging of a personality as any major leaguer. In a follow-up to a Q&A done with the Northwest Herald two seasons ago, Hunter explains how exactly he's gone Hollywood since then ...
Q: Are you a California guy yet?
Torii Hunter: Mmm hmm, yeah. It takes patience — as far as being in traffic [laughs]. I've been rear-ended already. They say that once you get rear-ended, you're actually a Californian.
Q: How is your Bentley?
TH: It's still in the hospital; it's sick.
Q: Is it hopeless?
TH: There is some hope. He's been waking up here and there. I think they found the [replacement] part to his body.
Q: They say that once a car's been hit, it's never the same.
TH: Yeah, man, that's what they say but I got the frame checked and the frame was good and I heard it's riding pretty good. It was just a fender bender. It's a pretty nice car.
Q: Did the dude who hit you ask for an autograph?
TH: No, he didn't ask for an autograph. He was scared of me. He saw a big black guy get out of a Bentley screaming and cursing — not at him, but the situation. He actually locked the door and rolled the window up. It was pretty funny.
Q: Where did this go down?
TH: It happened on Katella Avenue in Anaheim. It's a pretty nice area, but not like Newport Coast [laughs].
Q: Is the O.C. like Seattle with Starbucks, in that there's a plastic surgeon on every corner?
TH: There's definitely a plastic surgeon on every corner. I don't actually see the plastic surgeons, but I see their work [laughs].
Q: Would you like to appear on HBO's Entourage? Maybe at a scene during the Lakers game?
TH: Yeah, definitely! If they just want to put me just walking across the screen, that's fine [laughs].
Q: You've been quoted as saying you hadn't had an accident in 15 years. What happened in that one? Was that the other guy's fault, too?
TH: It was 1993, and that was my fault. Actually, there wasn't another guy involved. I hit a pole [laughs]. It was a curve and I couldn't make the curve. It was sleeting and icy. An ice storm in Arkansas. I had just been drafted. It was right before New Year's.
Q: There's a poem I heard that goes, "It's like the more money we come across, the more problems we see." How do you personally relate to that?
TH: P. Diddy was definitely right; the mo' money you have, the mo' problems. I definitely see a lot more problems. People say, ‘Man, you got all that money. Hey, babe, you should have no problems. Heh! I have more problems than when I didn't have money. You lose a lot of family members, you lose a lot of friends. It is what it is. Yeah, at least I'm happy I can pay my bills. But the problems that I have, other people don't want.
Q: Was the real reason you left Minnesota because Bert Blyleven is a chronic fart-a-holic and you just couldn't stand it anymore?
TH: No, I actually love Bert. Bert's pretty funny. But I do miss Minnesota.
Q: Out of respect for your accomplishments, should the Twins have played this season without a center fielder?
TH: Ha! I think they can move on. Carlos Gomez was a pretty good pickup for them. For the new stadium, when it comes in two years, he's going to be comfortable in the league to the point where he's tearing it up.
Q: Is outdoor baseball in Minnesota gonna get Prince to come out to more games?
TH: Nah. It's going to run Prince away [laughs]. It's going to be so cold in the first three months that it's going to run a lot of people away. But that summertime's going to be beautiful.
Q: On a similar note, the Twins lost yourself and Johan Santana this past off-season, and usually suffer some kind of attrition — yet they continue to win. Eventually, do you see them succeeding with NO players whatsoever?
TH: Ha! No, they're bred to win. They play the game the right way and that's going to keep going on. No matter if we're there, or David Ortiz leaves, or Johan Santana, whomever it may be, they're going to keep having the tradition where they play the game the right way. You're always going to have a chance to win if you play the game the right way. It's just hard to win the World Series and in the playoffs like that.
Q: You've lived in Minnesota where the governor was at one time an AWA World Tag Team champion; now you live in California, where the governor was at one time a killer cyborg from the future. What kind of freak show we got goin' on in this country?
TH: It's pretty wild. All you have to do is be a sports figure or a superstar porn star [like Mary Carey] — whatever it may be — and you can get elected.
Q: Would you like to run for office someday? You seem like a pretty popular guy.
TH: Yeah. I'd like to run for office one day. I'm working on it. I'll try to be the governor for Arkansas or Texas or something like that.
Q: Why don't you try for both at the same time?
TH: I probably can do that because voting is weird these days [laughs].
Q: Why all the sudden can't the umps tell a home run from a swinging bunt?
TH: You know what? It's been like that forever but somebody said something about it last year and now it's become a hot topic. I don't think it's the umpires, or whatever. I think it's the media; the more they talk about it, the more it's going to get in your head and you're going to visualize, "Aw, these umps suck!" I ain't saying they suck, I'm just [making a point and] saying they've been making these [incorrect] decisions for a long time. It's the human eye that [helps them make] the decision. Either it's a home run or not. I've had home runs taken away from me and I knew they were homers. But they say, "No." You just take a double and take it on the chin.
Q: Why can't Barry Bonds find work?
TH: Something of his past. Something happened — I don't really know what — and people assume, because he's never failed a steroid test, he's never had it in hand but people assume that he did. When they assume, when they make their judgment right away, he's guilty no matter what. Had he done some things different, as far as talking to the media, or talking to his teammates and being a personable guy, I think all of this would have blown over a long time ago.
Q: I've never met him and he's not here — what's Howie Kendrick like?
TH: He's awesome. "Big Truck," that's what they call him. If he can stay on the field, I can definitely say, he'll win a batting title.
Q: The play Gary Matthews made with the Rangers against the Astros, is it better than anything you've ever done?
TH: That play is pretty awesome. It's probably one of the best plays. I mean, you can't teach that. If he does that again, he can't do it [laughs]. You know? I can't do it. That was an awesome catch. It tops any catch I've made. I've taken a lot of home runs away in certain moments — as far as the ninth inning — but just to make a catch? That was the hardest to make. That won't happen twice.
Q: Is there a Disneyland tickets clause in your contract?
TH: No, my sons went to Disneyland so much when we played the Angels that they don't want to go no more. They're worn out.
Q: How is the Torii Hunter Project going? Are you getting more and more Little Leaguers from the inner city participating in baseball?
TH: The Torii Hunter Project is going pretty good. All you can do is try. It's something I tried two years ago, and it's just kinds of doing it. It's not growing. I wish it could be bigger.
Q: You need someone else to follow your lead?
TH: Yeah. Because it's called the "Torii Hunter Project," it seems like a one-man show. The only reason I did it like that was because I didn't have anyone with me. I was a loner. I have some guys that have donated [money or equipment], but I'd like someone to be "with me" on it. It would be totally different that way.
Previous Answer Men:
• Hunter Pence — April 10 • Justin Morneau — April 17 • David Wright — April 24 • Erin Andrews — April 25 • Andy Van Slyke — May 1 • Derek Jeter — May 8 • Bob Uecker — May 15 • Bert Blyleven — May 22