Highlights from Torii Hunter press conference

Torii Hunter has long been one of the most personable figures in baseball. For years, he talked with Tigers players, coaches and fans on the opposing side. Friday afternoon’s press conference announcing his two-year, $26 million contract was his first chance to publicly talk about his arrival in Detroit.

His personality was on display, and it immediately put a crowd of media and team officials at ease.

“Al Avila,” Hunter said, looking at the Tigers’ assistant general manager. “Man, I did not know that was your son. That is unbelievable. Your son is one of the nicest catchers in the game. He tells me all the pitches that are coming. That was pretty impressive.”

In between laughs, Hunter also answered the big question: Why does a veteran free-agent right fielder with enough interest to pick his destination target one team from the outset and go there?

“I just looked at the ballclub,” Hunter said. “I was scouting clubs [during the season] just in case the Angels didn’t sign me back. I knew they had contract restraints over there [in Anaheim], so I knew that wasn’t going to happen. But I definitely was scouting. I saw this was the best team in baseball. The early start was just a funk. You always go through a little funk. The early start that the Tigers had, but you saw what they did going down the stretch. They really wanted to win, and every bit of talent that they had came out of them. So I just continued to watch those guys and I saw they might have a spot open over there. …

“I know talent. That’s one thing over my years playing Major League Baseball, I know talent. I know what team wants to win, and I know what team is going to win. And I see the Tigers winning in 2013.”

By the time Hunter was done explaining, this much seemed clear: He recruited the Tigers as much or more than the Tigers recruited him.

“Tuesday, I flew in. I wanted to come here and just look at these guys and get to know these guys too,” Hunter said. “Dave Dombrowski, Mr. I and Al Avila, man, they were sitting down at the table and I told [owner Mike Ilitch] to his face, ‘I want to be a Tiger. I want to win a World Series. I know this is the team I want to be with. Let’s get it done today.’

“I mean, I don’t want to sit around and just wait. I really wanted to get something done that day. I know what team I wanted to play for, and he saw it in my eyes. And we just knocked it out right away. It wasn’t about being greedy or anything like that. We came with something that was fair for us, and I’m excited to be a Tiger. And thank you for allowing me to be that guy.”

More from Torii Hunter …

  • On manager Jim Leyland: “Funny old man. He cracks me up, when I was with Minnesota and the Angels we talked to each other during batting practice. He would have me rolling. He would tell some kind of joke and I’d say, man, that dude is crazy, I want to play for him one day.’ So we’re here, we had lunch last Tuesday, we talked about life, about players, about baseball, about WAR, about numbers guys, the way the game is changing. He’s a very good man.”
  • On Detroit: “I’ve been here several times. We stayed in Birmingham and Troy, we’d come into the city and I ate at Fishbones for years. For me, I’ve seen growth. I’ve seen the face of Detroit change. It looks better downtown. Ten, fifteen years ago, it was totally different. It’s a lot better, but we’ve still got some work to do. I want to give back to the community, get involved. If there’s investment opportunities out here, I will get involved. We can always get better.”
  • On character, leadership: “I try to lead by example. I don’t go around and be that rah-rah guy. I counsel guys. I sit one of my teammates down and fill them up with positive thoughts, positive sayings, try to lift them up. That’s what we should do as veteran players, not sitting there in their locker quiet, not sharing all the wisdom that they have and not being fruitful. I want to give back to those guys and lift them up. Because if you lift your teammates up … as a veteran guy, I’m going to do what I do. For me not to lift my younger guys up, then who’s going to do that? That’s what helps a team win.
  • More on lifting guys up: “Baseball is a negative game. Three out of 10 times [succeeding], you’re a hero. Three out of 10 at your job, you’re fired. Three out of 10 in other sports, you’re probably released. Three out of 10 in school, that’s an F. In baseball, you’re succeeding, so I’m able to tell these guys; Three out of 10, you’re a freaking hero. When I give them that, make them see it in a different light, that’s what helps a team.”
  • On having his son nearby at Notre Dame next fall: “Honestly, this is a perfect fit. You’re talking about playing in the Central again, a division I know about. I look at the Tigers and see the Tigers winning this division. … And then when I got outside of baseball and look at my family situation, only 2 1/2-3 hours away from my son in South Bend. Not just talking about catching football games, but on a day off I can go out there and hang out with him for a day. We can have lunch, talk, or he can come here when he has time. It’s just a perfect marriage, a perfect fit, and I really think I can win my World Series here in 2013 and ’14.”
  • On the American League MVP race: “That’s a hot tamale, that question. I would like for both of those guys to win that.”
  • On the impact of making the playoffs on the AL MVP race: “I like Trout and I like Cabrera. Those two totally different players. But the last I checked, since we were kids, MVP was always for the winning side. You talk about Michael Jordan, he’s a winner, the MVP. You talk about when you’re a kid at school, you get an MVP, I’ve never seen a losing guy get MVP. It’s my take on it. I’m a Tiger now.”

3 Comments

Talk about good energy!

i was taken aback by how affable Torii came across as. [scratches head] i can’t believe how many times i’ve cursed his name. “Sorry Torii. Never again.”

Thanks for the link, Jason!

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