Hunter resides during the off-season in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex suburb of Prosper, Texas. He is a cousin of former MLB outfielder Choo Freeman. Despite the same spelling, Hunter was not named after torii, the gates to a Japanese Shinto shrine. Hunter says jokingly, "I think, when my mom filled out the paperwork after I was born, she accidentally put two 'I's."
Hunter was selected as the Twins' first-round pick in 1993 out of high school, and made his first appearance with the Twins as a pinch runner in Baltimore on August 22, 1997. It was not until 1999 that Hunter began starting regularly, playing in 135 games for the Twins. He finished with only one error in 292 chances in the outfield.
Hunter exploded onto the scene in the beginning of April in 2000, but his batting average dropped to .207 by the end of May. He was subsequently sent down to Triple-A to work on his mechanics at the plate; however with Hunter's new approach at the plate, he caught fire in the month of June, capping it with a two-home run, seven-RBI game and being named the Twins' Minor League Player of the Week and Player of the Month. After a 16-game hitting streak, four consecutive games with home runs and three grand slams, Hunter was recalled by the Twins on July 28. Hunter was named both Best Defensive Outfielder and Most Exciting Player in Pacific Coast League by Baseball America for 2000.
In 2001, Hunter led the Twins in at bats, home runs and outfield assists (with 14 – tied for second best in the league), and was second in RBI and total bases, leading the Twins to their first winning season since 1992. Hunter led all major league center fielders in range factor (3.29), and was named Best Defensive Outfielder in the American League by Baseball America. He also won his first Rawlings Gold Glove Award in 2001.
In 2002, Hunter began to post near-MVP numbers, and was a contender for the award a good portion of the year. In the month of April, he went 39–105 (a .371 average) with nine home runs and 20 RBI, winning American League Player of the Month honors.
Hunter was selected by the fans to his first All-Star Game, in Milwaukee in 2002, becoming the first Twin since Kirby Puckett in 1995 to start an All-Star game in center field. One of the biggest moments came in the first inning, when, with two outs, Barry Bonds sent what appeared to be a towering home run to right-center field. Hunter, who had built a reputation for his outfield thievery in the American League, jumped and caught the ball over the wall. He was playfully lifted by Bonds en route to the dugout to show congratulations for Hunter's defensive play.
Although there were no awards given at the All-Star game, because the game ended in a tie, the catch was later awarded as the This Year in Baseball Best Defensive Play of the Year by the fans.
Hunter, along with an improved team and solid bullpen pitching, led a resurgence in the latter half of the season which powered the Twins to win the American League Central Division. The team would advance to the ALCS, where they would lose to the Anaheim Angels 4 games to 1. The Angels went on to win their first World Series championship.
Despite losing in the ALCS, it was still a very good year for the ballclub, and by far the best year for Hunter. He led the club in home runs, RBI, and stolen bases, and was tied for the lead in games and doubles. Hunter won the team's Calvin R. Griffith Award as Most Valuable Twin for 2002. He ended the season sixth in the MVP voting, and also earned his second Gold Glove in center field. Hunter was additionally voted baseball's Best Defensive Player Award for 2002 by the fans.
Hunter struggled offensively in 2003. Although he played in a career high 154 games, he often struggled at the plate, achieving an OPS (on-base plus slugging) of .763 and a batting average of just .250, .039 lower than in 2002. He stole just six bases, while being thrown out seven times, easily the worst ratio of his career. His defense was still strong enough to win his third straight Gold Glove for his play in center field.
Hunter missed much of the 2005 season after breaking his ankle and tearing ligaments when he attempted to scale the right field wall in Fenway Park on July 29. Despite playing essentially only half a season, Hunter was awarded his fifth consecutive Gold Glove.
On the last day of the regular season, Hunter hit his career-high 31st home run, helping the Twins to their fourth division title in five years.
On October 10, the Twins notified Hunter that they had picked up his $12 million option for the 2007 season, keeping him from becoming a free agent.
Los Angeles Angels of AnaheimEdit
After turning down a three-year, $45 million deal in August 2007 from the Twins, Hunter signed a five-year contract with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim worth $90 million. He replaced Gary Matthews Jr. as the everyday center fielder.
In 2009 he was named # 44 on the Sporting News' list of the 50 greatest current players in baseball. A panel of 100 baseball people, many of them members of the Baseball Hall of Fame and winners of major baseball awards, were polled to arrive at the list.
Hunter hit three home runs in one game against the San Diego Padres on June 13, 2009. It was the first time in his career he had accomplished the feat.
Hunter was selected to represent Los Angeles in the 2009 All-Star Game, making his third appearance, but was unable to participate, being on the disabled list because he had crashed into the outfield wall at Dodger Stadium and at AT&T Park, suffering a separation of his right shoulder that kept him for a little more than a month.
On November 10, 2009, it was announced that Hunter had won his ninth consecutive Gold Glove award for the outfield.
Two days later, it was announced that Hunter won a silver slugger award. He batted .299 with 22 homers and 90 RBI's.
Hunter began the 2007 season with one of the fastest starts to a season in his career, featuring a 23-game hitting streak starting in mid-April and ending on May 10.
Hunter has been awarded nine consecutive American League Gold Glove Awards for his defensive talents in center field.
Hunter contributes to many charities, including the "Torii Hunter Project Education Initiative," which provides college scholarships to students in California, Arkansas, Nevada and Minnesota, the Andre Agassi College Preparatory Academy in Las Vegas, a partnership with Major League Baseball to help maintain and improve baseball diamonds in inner cities, the Big Brothers and the Prostate Cancer Foundation, and in addition, Hunter helped fund construction of a youth softball field in Placentia, California in 2008. This work has resulted in Hunter being presented with the Branch Rickey Award in 2009, which rewards excellence in charity work.
In a discussion about the number of black players in the Major Leagues, Hunter said during a USA Today-hosted committee to improve baseball panel that black Latinos do not count. "People see dark faces out there, and the perception is that they're African-American. They're not us. They're impostors. Even people I know come up and say: 'Hey, what color is Vladimir Guerrero? Is he a black player?' I say, 'Come on, he's Dominican. He's not black.' ... As African-American players, we have a theory that baseball can go get an imitator and pass them off as us. It's like they had to get some kind of dark faces, so they go to the Dominican or Venezuela because you can get them cheaper. It's like, 'Why should I get this kid from the South Side of Chicago and have Scott Boras represent him and pay him $5 million when you can get a Dominican guy for a bag of chips?' ... I'm telling you, it's sad." Though Hunter does not dispute the accuracy of the quotes, he has denied accusations of racism, insisting that he was merely making a cultural distinction between African-American and Latino players.
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