Hot-hitting Torii Hunter returns to warm Anaheim reception as key cog in potent Tigers lineup

Tim Brown
Yahoo! Sports



ANAHEIM, Calif. – The inconvenient part of Friday night's 8-1 Angels win over Detroit was that Los Angeles didn't win for the past three years with Torii Hunter in their lineup, in their outfield, or in their hearts.

View photos

In fact, in spite of swollen expectations and a brand new superstar, the Angels with Hunter suffered a perfectly miserable, eight-win last April that all but snuffed their season before the marine layer could burn off. It wasn’t his fault, of course. He hit.

Anyway, there’s an honesty to Hunter, a realness, that draws people to him. Teammates linger at his locker. In his rookie season, Mike Trout basically lashed himself to Hunter’s belt. Fans get a smile and a “How ya doin’?” Even strangers get a wave, a wink, something that says, hey, we’re all good here.

So it’s an event when Hunter comes home, even when it’s not home anymore. He has been kind enough to stay in touch. Every night when they put the American League batting leaders on the scoreboard, there he is, staying in touch. On Friday evening, as Angel Stadium settled in, looming over the left-field bleachers:

T Hunter DET .413

Right on top, where he couldn’t be missed.

[Related: Mets fans cheer announcement after capture of Boston bombing suspect]

At 37, going on 38, Hunter has found new life, a new lineup, in Detroit. He’s come out swinging with the same smart, short stroke he adopted last season and is sure to put another thousand or so plate appearances on the end of his career.

“Oh, I don’t know,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said, “he hit about the third-longest home run of the season so far.”

Hunter has had the fortune of aging in the two-hole, last season in front of Albert Pujols and behind Trout, this season in front of Miguel Cabrera and behind Austin Jackson. He’s been as good to the lineup spot as it’s been to him; batting second, basically since last June, he’s hitting .353.

That’s what walked back into Angel Stadium on Friday night, with the home team dying for wins, the new right fielder hitting .200, chatter about changes on the coaching staff floating nearby, nobody sure if there’ll be enough pitching even when – or if – the bats come around.

[Related: Torii Hunter says it's good to be back home]

Actually, first it walked into Javier’s Cantina and Grill on Pacific Coast Highway in Newport Beach on Thursday night. That’s where Hunter bumped into Angels owner Arte Moreno, who’d apparently told Hunter the club lacked the funds to have him back. A month after Hunter signed with the Tigers for $26 million over two years, Moreno was attending a press conference celebrating the signing of Josh Hamilton to a five-year, $125-million contract. Hunter, who badly wished to remain in Anaheim, tweeted, “I was told money was tight but I guess Arte had money hidden under a mattress. Business is business but don’t lie.”

According to Hunter, four months later the two had a nice chat.

“Arte’s cool, man,” he said. “Everything was good. There was no animosity like people think.”

Of the tweet, he said, “I was trying to crack a joke. It went bad.”

View photos

Well, maybe everybody’s better for it anyway. Moreno got his superstar with some prime seasons left. The Tigers got a guy hitting better than .400 with plenty left in that bat, in those legs. Regardless, what’s done is done.

Hunter strolled into the ballpark through the right-field gate Friday afternoon and was met immediately by Pujols’ son, A.J., who was shagging for early batting practice. Hunter laughed and put a bear hug on the 12-year-old, until A.J.’s feet were fluttering a foot above the grass.

When Hunter came to the plate in the first inning, he was greeted with a standing ovation. He lifted his helmet to the folks here. Then, when he took right field, the people in the bleachers met him with more applause, more love, a sign that read, “Thank U Torii.” He raised his cap, gestured to them, turned and did the same toward those in the field boxes along the line, then tapped his heart.

He’d been part of some disappointment here over the past five years. But he’d played well. More, he’d always played like he cared. Like he gave a crap. In a head-down, jog-to-the-dugout league, sometimes it’s enough to give a crap. Nobody, least of all fans, wants to feel like they’re going it alone. For those five years, Hunter celebrated wins with them, mourned losses with them and, in the end, didn’t want to go. He wanted to see it out. To win with them again.

That won’t happen.

“There’s still a lot of love here,” he said. “I can feel it.”

So Hunter gave them a smile and a “How ya doin’?” A wave to say, hey, we’re all good here. And then he went out to try and beat them, yet another detail in a night that was, all in all, inconvenient.

Related MLB Video from Yahoo! Sports:

More popular content on Yahoo! Sports:
Images from the manhunt, capture of Boston bombing suspect
Does 49ers-Texans belong in the list of worst 2013 NFL matchups?
Best NFL matchups of 2013 season
Ball Don't Lie Power Rankings: First-round playoff matchups

  • Aly Raisman on How the Final Five Reacted to Gabby Douglas Getting Bullied

    During the Olympic games, Final Five member Gabby Douglas watched herself be torn apart by internet trolls who dubbed her “Crabby Gabby” for not appearing supportive enough of her teammates during the all-around team competition (Douglas reportedly wasn’t as smiley as her other teammates in the stands) or patriotic enough during the medal ceremony (Douglas did not have her hand on her heart). Now, with the games behind them, Final Five team captain Aly Raisman opened up to E! News about what she, Simone Biles, Laurie Hernandez, and Madison Kocian were doing behind the scenes to help their teammate.

    Elle
  • Lane Johnson says he'll sue supplement company over suspension

    Philadelphia Eagles offensive tackle Lane Johnson first complained about the NFLPA’s lack of supplement testing after his positive test triggered a 10-game suspension. Now he says he’ll sue the supplement company that he says sold him the amino acids that led to the positive test. Johnson had $25 million in guaranteed money remaining on his deal, but the positive test meant none of that money is guaranteed anymore due to a clause in his contract.

    Shutdown Corner
  • Katie Ledecky explains why she is passing up an estimated $5 million per year in endorsements

    What is Katie Ledecky's net worth? The swimmer could have a whole lot more — about $5 million per year in endorsements. Katie Ledecky proved to be one of the biggest stars of the 2016 Rio Olympics with her dominance in the pool.

    Business Insider
  • Jered Weaver will decide if he wants to retire after the season is over

    Jered Weaver is in the last year of his five-year, $85 million contract with the Angels. He’s also just barely hanging on. To the extent he is succeeding — and he has had his moments — it’s almost all on guile given that his velocity has almost completely abandoned him. Could he hang on a while longer? Probably. Guile aint’ nothing and there are worse pitchers than Weaver, but if he’s going to keep going it will almost certainly be as a year-to-year guy fighting for a job every winter and fighting for a roster spot every spring. Some guys, especially guys who have made their money, may want to retire at that point. Weaver isn’t necessarily ruling it out, but he isn’t making any final decisions

    HardballTalk
  • Review: 'Madden NFL 17' runs hard, plays it safe

    Despite its incredible complexity and depth, Madden 17 is surprisingly kind to new players, as well as those who haven’t memorized every NFL team’s gameplay strategy. The upgraded run mechanics and countless small improvements certainly keep it a step ahead of Madden 16.

    Ben Silverman
  • Jamal Crawford reportedly faced death threats over losses while gambling with Michael Jordan

    Michael Jordan helped propel Jamal Crawford‘s NBA career – one that has already lasted 16 seasons and resulted in more than $120 million in earnings and three Sixth Man of the Year awards. Jordan also fostered an environment where Crawford could’ve derailed it. Crawford was drafted for the Bulls in 2000, when Jordan was contemplating a comeback he’d eventually make with the Wizards. In preparation, Jordan frequently invited Crawford to play pickup basketball with him. Mike Wise of The Undefeated: In between Crawford’s first and second year in the league, after the pickup games at Hoops the Gym, many of Jordan’s friends and associates would go next door to his contemporary American restaurant,

    ProBasketballTalk
  • Recruit says letter mixup leads to decommitment from Michigan

    A four-star recruit in the class of 2017 is reneging on his verbal commitment to Michigan because of an apparent mail mixup. Defensive tackle Aubrey Solomon posted this to Twitter on Monday night saying he was re-opening his recruitment. “A day or two ago, they sent my mom a card thanking us for going to the Michigan bbq, but we never went,” Solomon said.

    Dr. Saturday
  • Yoenis Cespedes says he won't opt out of Mets contract

    The New York Mets somehow finding a way to bring back outfielder Yoenis Cespedes this past winter was one of the biggest stories of the offseason. After singlehandedly taking the Mets to the playoffs with a spectacular second half, it was assumed Cespedes’ price range on the market would exceed what the Mets were willing to pay. In order to bring back Cespedes, the Mets needed to get creative with their deal.

    Big League Stew
  • Earnhardt Jr. out through Darlington

    NASCAR.com's Jonathan Merryman brings you Up To Speed on the news that Alex Bowman and Jeff Gordon will fill in for Dale Earnhardt Jr. at MIS and Darlington.

    NASCAR.com
  • Ronda Rousey will not return at UFC 205 in New York

    If Ronda Rousey is going to return to the UFC in the future, it certainly won’t be at the fighting promotions highly anticipated debut in New York City. UFC president Dana White appeared on the “UFC Unfiltered” podcast to state that the former women’s bantamweight champion would not be fighting at UFC 205 on Nov. 12. “She’s definitely not fighting in New York,” White said.

    Cagewriter
  • The Lakers and the NBA are taking another chance on Yi Jianlian

    After a few frustrating free agent chase-downs with Kobe Bryant around, and a 2016 offseason without Bryant on board, the Los Angeles Lakers have mostly committed to the idea of a full-on rebuilding project. New, “rookie” head coach Luke Walton is the team’s biggest free agent signing, there won’t be any agent-favoring vet acquisitions like Carlos Boozer and Roy Hibbert to help fill out the roster, and the team seems fully bent on working with the young prospects it has alongside the 2017 NBA draft pick it will hopefully get to keep next spring. Stuck somewhere in the middle of the favors for representatives, the raw prospects to suss out, and the vets to fill out the roster is the curious case of Yi Jianlian.

    Ball Don't Lie
  • Rory McIlroy Not Switching Equipment Yet Despite New Putter in Bag

    Rory McIlroy may have a Scotty Cameron putter in the bag this week at The Barclays, but he's not making any major equipment moves yet. Following Nike's announcement that the athletic giant is getting out of the equipment game, McIlroy confirmed Wednesday that he's switched out his Nike Method Origin putter.

    Golf
  • Aly Raisman Courted on Twitter, Agrees to a Date With NFL Player

    Gold medalist Aly Raisman managed to score a date with an NFL star over Twitter. After a proposition by Oakland Raiders tight end Colton Underwood, Raisman agreed to a double date with fellow Olympian Shawn Johnson and her husband Andrew East, who also plays for the Raiders.

    Good Morning America
  • What might the U.S. men's basketball roster look like in Tokyo in 2020?

    After Team USA’s dominating 96-66 drubbing of Serbia at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro to win a third straight gold medal in men’s basketball, USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo called upon the rest of the world to “get their act together and compete” if they want to break the stranglehold the Americans have had on the top of the men’s hoops podium over the past eight years. As the United States’ opponents set about rebuilding, revamping and reloading their national sides with an eye toward the 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo, though, it’s worth wondering: what might the U.S.’s own roster look like in four years’ time? Given the gulf between the victory in Rio and the opening of play in Japan, there’s precious little we (think we) know about what will unfold for Team USA 2020.

    Fourth-Place Medal
  • League of Legends esports is in chaos over low pay, untimely patches, and more (UPDATED)

    The League of Legends esports scene is a mess right now. In the past few months, tensions between Riot Games and team owners within the LCS have been rising. There is a rift (sorry) between the owners and Riot due to disagreements about how the LCS and the rest of League esports should be run.

    Taylor Cocke
  • The Patriots traded center Bryan Stork to the Redskins, but he could retire

    First, it was reported that the New England Patriots were planning on releasing their third-year center, who started in their Super Bowl XLIX win as a rookie in the 2014 season. Then word arose that the Washington Redskins, seeking an upgrade, had sent a conditional draft pick to the Patriots for Stork. Then came another odd turn: Was the concussion-plagued Stork, 25, considering retiring instead of joining his new team?

    Shutdown Corner
  • Andrew Miller induces worst swing of the season with nasty slider

    With that said, we just can’t think of another way to describe this beautiful slider from Cleveland Indians reliever Andrew Miller. Allow us to set the scene: With the Indians up by one run in the ninth inning against the Oakland Athletics, the club turned to Miller to close things out. It was pretty evident Miller had his good stuff during the outing, striking out the first two hitters he faced on just seven pitches.

    Big League Stew
  • Israeli police on alert ahead of Celtic match

    JERUSALEM (AP) Israeli police are on high alert ahead of a match between Celtic and Hapoel Beer Sheva after fans of the Scottish champion waved Palestinian flags at their last meeting. Spokesman Micky Rosenfeld says hundreds of police will be deployed in and around the stadium to “ensure that it is a sport event and not a political event,” and that flags will be removed if necessary. Political banners and protests are banned at matches organized by the Union of European Football Associations. UEFA charged Celtic over fans displaying Palestinian flags at a Champions League match with the Israeli team last week. Celtic fans often wave Palestinian flags at matches but many more were seen during

    ProSoccerTalk
  • NASCAR announces warnings to Xfinity teams

    In the span of less than a week, the long-term sponsor outlook of JR Motorsports dramatically has shifted from potentially bleak to firmly bright. On the heels of NASCAR phenom William Byron being added to the Xfinity Series team for the 2017 season (as part of a multiyear deal with Hendrick Motorsports), JRM announced Wednesday that sponsor OneMain has reversed course and decided to remain on Elliott Sadler’s No. 1 Chevrolet. “When we found out this was going to happen, my wife and I just cried that whole morning tears of joy knowing there’s so much stability,” Sadler, 41, told NBC Sports. OneMain, which initially had informed JRM nearly two months ago of its plan to leave NASCAR, will sponsor Sadler for 20 races in each of the next two seasons, JRM general manager Kelley Earnhardt Miller said.

    NASCAR Talk
  • John Wall and Bradley Beal are trying to learn to like each other

    John Wall and Bradley Beal feel the love. The Washington Wizards have been an excellent example of that difficulty. General manager Ernie Grunfeld opened this decade by selecting two very promising guards in John Wall (the first-overall pick in 2010) and Bradley Beal (third in 2012), and both have impressed enough to earn max-level contracts as the future leaders of the franchise.

    Ball Don't Lie
  • Puck Daddy Summer Series: Weird San Jose Sharks

    What Puck Daddy’s 2016 Summer Series seeks to do is capture those indefinable, quirky, oddities that occur every season. SJ Sharkie, team mascot extraordinaire, decided that he wanted to outdo fellow Californian Wild Wing’s “I’ll set myself on fire” disaster back in 1995, committed to his usual pre-game entrance of dropping down from the rafters a la WCW’s Sting. Sharkie started his routine, girded his loins, and began his descent.

    Puck Daddy
  • The Barclays 2016: Tee Times, TV Schedule, Prize Money

    (c) 2016 Time Inc. Stars Kick Off FedEx Cup Playoffs at The Barclays The biggest names in golf head to Bethpage to kick off the FedEx Cup playoffs, including The Barclays defending champ, Jason Day.The PGA Tour's season-ending FedEx Cup playoff series

    Golf
  • David Price pitches the Red Sox back into first place

    Now this is the David Price for whom the Red Sox paid $217 million, the ace Boston thought could lead it back to the World Series. This David Price, he threw eight shutout innings on Monday night as the Red Sox beat the Tampa Bay Rays 6-2. The Red Sox hadn’t had a share of first place in the AL East since July 20.

    Big League Stew
  • LeBron James totally wasn't trolling the Warriors with that Ultimate Warrior shirt, you guys

    Cleveland Cavaliers’ Lebron James, center, holds up the NBA Championship trophy alongside teammates Kyrie Irving, left, Kevin Love, rear right, J.R. Smith, right, and Tristan Thompson, front, at the airport in Cleveland on June 20, 2016. Hey, remember when LeBron James stepped off the Cleveland Cavaliers’ team plane after his team’s vanquishing of the Golden State Warriors to win the 2015-16 NBA championship wearing a blue T-shirt bearing the image of the Ultimate Warrior?

    Ball Don't Lie
  • Fantasy football 2016 mock draft, Rounds 1-3: Lamar Miller cracks the top-five

    Lamar Miller, first round fantasy asset. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) National Draft Day is almost upon us, everyone. Time to get seriously serious about your prep. Beginning today, the Yahoo Sports fantasy crew is going to mock draft

    Roto Arcade