How Torii Hunter helped Tigers pitch to Justin Upton

Al Avila flew out to Arizona last Friday on what he called a recruiting visit to talk with Justin Upton about joining the Tigers. Brad Ausmus got the call from his boss and hopped on the next flight out.

Torii Hunter was at home in Texas, enjoying his first offseason as a retired ballplayer. He hasn’t been part of the Tigers organization in over a year. Yet for the Tigers’ recruiting pitch, he might have provided one more assist, arguably out of left field.

Upton and Hunter have the same agent, Larry Reynolds, who played a bigger role in getting Upton to Detroit than he did in getting Hunter to Detroit. Hunter knew he wanted to come to Detroit well before he signed after the 2012 season, seeing what he felt was his last, best chance at a World Series. Upton knew somewhat about Detroit, but until now has spent his entire career in the National League. He was already well along in talks with the Tigers when he got a call from Hunter, but he was still learning about his new home.

“Torii gave me a call two or three nights ago,” Upton said at Wednesday’s introductory press conference. “I think it was Monday night. He had nothing but great things to say. I think his first comments were that, being a Minnesota Twin for years, he hated Detroit, he hated everybody here and every time he came here, he just wanted to win every game. But he said when he played here, it was one of the best experiences he ever had.

“He said the team itself, it’s a winning atmosphere. They love their players. The fans love their players. He said if you go out and you play the game the right way and smile every day, the people of Detroit will respect you and love having you here. So that’s my plan, to go out and give the city what I have, bring what I can to the table and enjoy my time here. I’m excited to see what Detroit has to offer.”

Hunter, who played two seasons here, said in a text message that he has known Upton since he was a teenager.

“I just told him my experiences here,” Hunter said. “He’s a good guy.”

His message for Upton, he said, was pretty simple.

“Told him to just be yourself and don’t hide who you are,” Hunter said. “Detroit fans can spot a fake a mile away. Stay genuine.”

13 Comments

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Avila told reporters, “I’d still like to have more depth in pitching. We’re adequate right now.” No need to stop now, a LH reliever or a swing man wont be bad.

Speaking of LF: I was thinking lately of our old friend Willie Horton who was really quite under-rated in many respects. Upton’s numbers made me think of what Willies were as I figured them to be similar. They kind of are similar. If we can get that kind of production from Upton it will help a lot.
Now back to Willie, in his next to last season with Willie all he did was hit 29 homers, drove in over 100, batted .279 and played in EVERY single Seattle game during that season.
There was a Tiger for the ages and a statue out there to honour him always.

Let me tell you something about the real Willie Horton. When I was a kid, Willie played for the Tigers and I loved him. A couple of years ago, Willie wrote a book and was having a promotion and book signing at the stadium. I was excited, and I took my youngest son to meet him and to get a signed copy of his book. I live in Ft. Wayne, Indiana, and we got there a few minutes late. My son was the last one in the line, and the kid in front of us got the last book. Willie Horton got up and started walking away. My son asked if he could at least get an autograph. Willie knew he was there and what he was asking for, but he totally ignored my son. I wrote to the Tigers and told them what happened, but nobody ever got back to me. I’ve been a die hard fan for over 50 years, but I will never forget what Willie Horton did to my son. I bet Tori Hunter wouldn’t have walked away, or Miguel, etc…… but Willie Horton did, and we will never forget what he did.

Justice: Here’s to you, Mike Ilitch. We offer a tip of the hat. You made a promise. You delivered.

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Well said Dan. Regarding Torii, those indeed were kind words. And honest too as he admitted he hated Detroit while playing for the Twins. Regardless of who he played for he was “all in” as was the case with Willie. Will never forget Torii crashing into and falling over the Boston RF walI. I thought he darned near killed himself and he didn’t miss the catch by much. That was about the sadest and scariest moment that year.
I remember reading an article about Willie many years ago when I was maybe 11 or 12. It inspired me as I read about his childhood and the obstacles and poverty he overcame to become the player he was. Of course Al Kaline was my hero but Willie was a close second.
I like the Justin Upton signing. This from a guy who laments the huge money in sports. The more the bigger markets spend the tougher it is on the smaller markets. Although, there seems to be more parity lately which kind of flies in the face of this argument. Anyway, I’m liking this new team a lot. I think it’s shaped into a contender. The core remains but a lot of new faces. Plenty of money spent but, in my mind, wiser than in the past. The window remains open. Go Tigers.

Thanks Marty. So many times during the course of a season we say “It all goes back to pitching”. As improved as this team isthe key will be, indeed, the pitching. We can’t expect career performances out of the whole rotation. In fact I would suggest the only “career” performance will probably come from Daniel Norris. If the veteran portion of the rotation simply pitch as their career averages we will be fortunate. We can’t afford injuries and we can’t afford meltdowns like we saw from our two rotation additions like last year (Greene and Simon).
Greene is an interesting conundrum. I have seen him (actually against the tigers) be mesmerizing but mostly he seemed to lack confidence in a Tiger uni. He has good stuff. When he sheds that damn hoody maybe we can expect to see more confidence and maturity. He’s a wild card.
I’d like to see Avila package together Bernard and Boyd (Bernard is intriguing but there is no room for him on the predominantly RHB roster) for a quality dependable LHP for the pen.

Upton´s OBP makes him the best option for the second spot. If he bats 5th. Where do you hit JD? 6th?
Kinsler, Upton, Miguel, Victor,JD, Saltalmacchia, Castellanos, Maybin, Iglesias.

I have Castellanos 7th because of S, R, S, R. He earned the 6th with McCann hitting 8th.

Hopefully McCann starts to hit RHP better because I would expect him to be the regular backstop.
As to our RHB lineup? Well the organization is not that concerned with the issue. And they have reason to support that lack of concern. Miggy hits RHP better than LHP, so does JD. So does Upton. In fact Upton hit under .200 against LHP last year.
I will say that Nick does like LHP though–a lot! This may be hard to believe but he hit over .350 last year against southpaws!!

Horton came to Venezuela as DH in 1978 for Magallanes a team with Mitchel Page , Jerry White and Dave Coleman .After 16 years in MLB, he is the player with longest trajectory in MLB before playing here.
The team was in last place and Cookie Rojas the manager was fired. Horton was named manager. They won the first 12 games . They won the Championship and then the Caribbean Series. He is known as “el brujo”, the witch, because he made everything against the book and it worked.
He came back in 1979, but the he ran out of luck. The magic was over and he was replaced by Luis Aparicio. The team was unable to win for the next 15 years: ” The curse of Willie Horton”

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