Former Angels outfielder Torii Hunter said goodbye to his playing days on Thursday during an emotional news conference at Target Field in Minneapolis, but not to baseball.
The 40-year-old was brought to tears when talking about his career, which spanned parts of 17-plus seasons with the Minnesota Twins, the Detroit Tigers and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
“The last two years, I’ve been sore,” he joked. “It just felt like it was time. Did I say I was retired? I said I was ‘real tired.’
“The last two years, I’ve been sore and fighting through soreness. Every day, getting out of bed, I take that first step and my wife has to push me out of bed. So I just felt like it was time. It took me two hours to get warmed up. And also, just my family. I traveled so much and missed out on so many things.”
The nine-time Gold Glove winner and five-time All-Star finished with 353 home runs, 1,391 runs batted in, a lifetime batting average of .277 and an on-base percentage of .331. Those numbers pale in comparison to what he brought to the game.
“I suspect every one of his teammates would tell you Torii made them better,” Twins General Manager Terry Ryan said. “You probably never heard a bad word about him. What a stand-up guy. He is the definition of a leader on the field and in the clubhouse.”
Twins Manager Paul Molitor, who played two seasons with Hunter and managed him in his final season, noted that the outfielder never played in a World Series, let alone winning a championship. That didn’t matter.
“Every player would like to have that experience,” Molitor said. “But Torii was a champion in so many other ways.”
Hunter, who batted .240 with 22 home runs and 81 RBIs in 139 games last season, said he would continue to be involved in baseball.
“This is tough for me,” Hunter said. “I’ve never been in this situation. When you’re younger, you think you’ll play forever. It’s a kid’s game, but us grownups are kids at heart. Baseball is in my blood. I know somehow in the future, I’ll still be involved in the game.”
Hunter said he was exploring options to become a baseball analyst or possibly join the Twins organization.
“I don’t think I’m walking away,” he said. “I’m just transitioning. I’ll just take some time off and focus on today. Tomorrow has its own set of problems. So in the near future, I’ll definitely be in baseball in some form or fashion. I just don’t know what it’s going to be.”