It was January 31st 2004 and I was heading in the DBAT in Dallas. It was my first day and I was excited to share my passion for baseball and teaching kids as a baseball coach. As I approached the door there was a gentleman in front of me. He opened the door and held it for me. That smile lit up and Torii greeted me into my career as a baseball coach in Dallas. Turns out it was his first day at DBAT too and for the next few weeks I spent entire days in the cages learning and devouring as much as I could from the dozen or so major leaguers that would come through the doors to hone their craft.
Torii and I would talk Twins and he was always so upbeat about where the organization was going and excited to be back on the field when the season started. He loved Minnesota and I always knew he should be back.
A few lessons learned. One early February day Torii was giving a lesson to a young minor leaguer who was hitting off the tee. This guy kept making the same mistake and hitting fly balls into the first half of the net. Torii stopped him, looked him straight in the eye and took the time to teach this young man a lesson about hitting in the big leagues. “When you’re working on the tee, never make the same mistake twice in a row. You’ve got to constantly be making adjustments and getting better every chance you get.” That's the way Torii worked every day.
There are not many players who play any major sport until they are 40 years old. I know what kind of work ethic Torii Hunter brings to the Minnesota Twins and I’m sure anyone who has ever had the privilege to watch him master his craft would tell you the same thing.
Torii had already signed with the Angels and I had the opportunity to talk with him the day that the Twins signed Justin Morneau to his big contract. It’s because of that conversation I had a feeling that Torii would be back in a Twin’s uniform. If you’ve been to a Twin’s game in the past few years with me, they were likely playing Torii’s team and I’ve been hoping for his return to the Twin Cities for a long time.
Torii, we are glad to have you back. Your leadership and example have the potential to turn this team around and give the young players a foundation to build off of for decades to come. The Twin’s organization began sliding once you left the team and there are a lot of Minnesota folk who are excited to benefit from your play on the field and your influence off of it.
Welcome back Torii!