Over two decades ago, the Minnesota Twins selected outfielder Torii Hunter in the first round of the 1993 MLB Draft. Since then, Hunter has played at the MLB level for the Twins, Los Angeles Angels and currently the Detroit Tigers. At 38 years old, Hunter’s career is beginning to wind down, as he may only have two seasons left in MLB.
While his career may nearly be over, his legacy will live on through his Hall of Fame-caliber numbers.
Hunter made his major league debut in 1997, but did not assume a full-time role until 1999. Beginning his career in Minnesota, Hunter was a critical member of a Twins team that had not been relevant in over a decade.
In 2001, Hunter would be awarded with his first of nine Gold Gloves in center field. A year later in 2002, Hunter would be named to his first of five All-Star teams. During the game, Hunter robbed San Francisco Giants outfielder Barry Bonds of a home run, marking one of the most memorable images in All-Star game history.
Hunter would finish the 2002 season sixth in MVP voting, winning his second consecutive Gold Glove while leading the Twins to their first division title in over a decade. He signed with the Angels after the 2007 season, finishing his Twins career ranked eighth in home runs with 192, behind Hall of Famers such as Harmon Killebrew and Kirby Puckett.
With the Angels, Hunter would win his eighth and ninth consecutive Gold Gloves, be nominated to his third and fourth All-Star games, and win his first of two Silver Slugger awards. He also played an important role in helping the Angels qualify for the playoffs in both 2008 and 2009.
After the 2012 season, Hunter signed with the Tigers in order to be closer to his son, who received a scholarship to play wide receiver at Notre Dame. In his first season with the Tigers, Hunter produced a career-high in batting average at .313, was elected to his fifth All-Star team, helped the Tigers reach the postseason and received his second Silver Slugger award.
Through 72 games this season with the Tigers, Hunter has hit 11 home runs, recorded 46 RBIs and is a veteran leader in their clubhouse.
To date, Hunter ranks 168th all-time with 2,244 hits, is tied for 107th all-time in home runs with 325, and ranks only behind Hall-of-Famers Roberto Clemente, Willie Mays, Al Kaline and Hall of Famers-to-be Ken Griffey Jr. and Ichiro Suzuki with nine Gold Gloves in the outfield. He set the bar for center field defense throughout the 2000s.
While Hunter has yet to win a World Series, he has played in 45 playoff games, recording four home runs and a .278 batting average in the process.
Hunter will go down as one of the best all-around outfielders in Twins history, ranking behind only Puckett and arguably Bob Allison. He is undoubtedly the best defensive outfielder and arguably the best defensive player in team history. His No. 48 will certainly be retired at some point in the future.
When his career is over, Hunter’s numbers may not jump off the screen, but his sensational defense, clubhouse personality, competitiveness and team-oriented leadership should qualify him as worthy of Hall-of-Fame consideration. In a generation categorized by steroid use and dominating pitching, Hunter was the pinnacle of outfield defense and deserves a look for a spot in Cooperstown.