|Angels' upbeat Torii Hunter a most unusual `regular guy'|
|Written by Admin|
|Tuesday, 26 February 2008 16:30|
``I never knew what that meant,'' the Los Angeles Angels' new center fielder said. ``I'm just being me. I don't think it's a clubhouse presence, I think it's just me, the way I was raised and taught: treat people like I want to be treated.
``I'm just a regular guy.''
A regular guy who smiles all the time, treats people he just met as if they were his best friends, offers sage advice to young players, and seems to set a sterling example on and off the field.
He likes to make his teammates laugh, but he doesn't play practical jokes.
``I'll make you laugh with some of my little down-South slang, some of my little jokes I have from the South,'' he said. ``But I'm not really a guy that will burn your shoelaces, or something like that.''
He grinned and added, ``I might have something to do with it, might have somebody do it. But I won't be the one doing the dirty work.''
Hunter has seven Gold Glove awards, impressive offensive numbers that include a .287 batting average with 28 homers and 107 RBIs for Minnesota last year, and a $90 million, five-year contract that is the Angels' richest ever.
He still considers himself just a lucky guy from Pine Bluff, Ark., who loves baseball and genuinely likes people.
``Torii is fun to be around. He's really a delight,'' Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. ``It's certainly a positive (having him) because it's going to help the communication in there. He's been around. He knows the game.
``He's just a good person and he's great with all his teammates. There's an energy there. I think we feel that in the clubhouse. I think the guys are rallying around him.''
Second baseman Howie Kendrick likes having Hunter as a locker neighbor.
``He's a great clubhouse guy. I like him. He's a huge addition to our team,'' Kendrick said.
Even Gary Matthews Jr., who is moving out of center field to make room for Hunter, seems pleased that his friend signed as a free agent over the winter.
``We made our team better. We got the bat that we were looking for,'' said Matthews, who will play right field some and serve as the designated hitter other times. ``It was like we got one of the best players on the market, and he just happened to be a center fielder.
``The guy's won Gold Gloves, so it's not like it's going to make us worse. It not only gives protection to Vlade (Vladimir Guerrero) in the lineup, it gives protection to everybody.''
Hunter credits the late Kirby Puckett for taking him under his wing and helping him develop a positive outlook on the game - and life.
``You've got to enjoy life. Kirby Puckett once told me, 'You've got to enjoy this game, every day, every minute. There's no room to be uptight because it can be over just like that. And once it's over, it's over,''' Hunter said.
Puckett's career ended prematurely because of glaucoma, and he died in 2006 just short of his 46th birthday.
``I understood, just talking to him all the time,'' Hunter said of Puckett's influence. ``I always did enjoy the game, but I really enjoy it now.
``If I strike out three times, I'm going to be upset, but I'm going to throw it out the wind by the next day.''
Hunter stopped talking briefly to attend morning chapel. He soon was back at his locker and chatting again.
``I like people, man, I love people,'' he said. ``God's greatest gift is people. If everybody would treat everybody like they want to be treated, this world and this clubhouse would be great.''