|Tigers' Torii Hunter (center) with Owner Mike Ilitch (right) and General Manager Dave Dombrowski (left)|
Torii Hunter. Always has a smile on his face. Many words come to mind to describe him. Charismatic, funny, well-respected, but most of all, a leader. With the Tigers lacking a vocal star last year, Hunter is welcomed with open arms to help stabilize the clubhouse. Last year, stars like Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder, and Justin Verlander led with their playing skills, not their voice. They are soft-spoken, and lead by example. When manager Jim Leyland was questioned on Hunter's influence within the clubhouse he said, “Torii Hunter is a great leader on and off the field, but the most important thing for me...He's also a great major league player.” That may be true Jim, but let's not forget that clubhouse chemistry is an important part in forming a championship club. Let's take the Boston Red Sox as an example. A late season collapse in 2011 when they lost 18 of their final 24 games to miss the postseason, was tied into dissolving clubhouse chemistry. When asked about the collapse, Sox All-Star second baseman Dustin Pedroia commented in saying, “I just know that playing in Boston, you're required to play your tail off every day to try to win ballgames for this city. That's what hurt so much as a player, that we not only let each other down in the clubhouse but we let the city down.” What had helped the Red Sox so much in their championship runs in '04 when Kevin Millar dubbed the team as the “Idiots” and in '07 was TEAM CHEMISTRY. So see Jim just ask the 2011 Red Sox, it does make a difference.
Another thing that Hunter will bring to the ball-club is experience. With a lot of youngsters being on the roster, Torii will be looked up to as a mentor. In Anaheim, Hunter played alongside 2012 AL Rookie of the Year Mike Trout. Trout was touted as being a good prospect, but not this good this fast. Trout posted a .326 average, with 30 HR and a league leading 49 stolen bases. He also finished second in the AL MVP voting to none other than the Tigers Miguel Cabrera. Trout's own father, Jeff, even appreciates the effect Torii had on his son. “Not only did he help him with his approach to the game, but all the little things that people don't realize when you get up there as a 20-year-old kid—how to behave in the clubhouse, what time to get there”, Jeff said. Trout's mother also Tweeted, “Thank you from the bottom of my heart!!!! Mike has learned from the best!!!! We will miss you but see you in Detroit!!!” Now when you get gratitude from the mother, you must be doing something right.
It is things like this that Hunter will bring to the club in mentoring young outfielders like Austin Jackson, Avasail Garcia and Andy Dirks. With experience, leadership, and ability, it will be exciting to see what Hunter will be able to do with this team; filling a well-needed outfield spot and adding a leader.