A Cold Return to Minnesota for Torii Hunter
In my opinion, it was time.
On November 21, 2007, an era was demolished. An era of what most people saw as miracle catches, an award winning smile, and undiminished power. Torii Hunter was gone. Kirby Puckett's protege had ridden off into the sunset with a $90M deal.
I shed not a tear.
I have never really gotten into the Torii Hunter craze that the rest of Twins nation has gotten into. I really don't see what the big deal is.
To me, Torii is a double-play/strike-out-waiting-to-happen machine with good glove. He has hit 30 HR in a season only once. He has never hit over .300.
Fans fail to remember the costly error in the 2006 ALDS, in which a ball got by him, resulting in a Mark Kotsay inside-the-park-home-run in Game Two against Oakland.
People remember him for his smile and his glove. People are convinced that defense wins championships (ArenaBowl XX: Chicago, 69. Orlando 61), but that has not been true for Minnesota in recent years.
In clutch situations, he hits into double plays. When the game is on the line, he falters. He enjoys picking fights with the Cleveland Indians.
So, when I heard that Torii Hunter and his L.A. Angels were in Minnesota for the season opener, I bought my ticket. Little did I know that on March 31, there would be eight inches of snow falling from the sky.
But nothing would keep me away from this game. Not my broken windshield wipers. Not my broken tail lights. At long last, my dream would be fulfilled: Booing Torii Hunter at the Metrodome.
During opening lineups, a "Thanks for the Memoriies (notice the two i's...)" video was played. I vomited in my mouth a little. Yeah, thanks, Torii. Thanks for not bringing a championship to Minnesota.
The rest of the sold-out Metrodome crowd must have sensed my feelings, because every time Torii touched the ball after that, I led the crowed in booing like Knoblauch was back in town.
My heart skipped a beat when not one, but TWO Texas-leaguers found their way to Torii. He looked awkward and uncomfortable in his centerfield nook. His double play to end an L.A. threat made me squeal.
It must have killed him inside to see his replacement, Carlos Gomez (whom the Twins picked up in the Santana deal) go 2-3 with 2 SB and a run scored. But that wasn't the story of the night.
Top of the ninth: Twins lead 3-2. Up steps Torii Hunter ready to take it to his old team. He's ready to start earning a somewhat respectable paycheck to play in sunshine and palm trees.
Nathan sits him down on four pitches—three swinging strikes.
"Typical Torii." someone said behind me. "Swinging for the fences." I turned around and gave that hairy man a huge kiss. Finally, people were seeing Torii for what he really was: An offensive choker.
I slept well that night. Enjoy, L.A. Enjoy.
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