On Thursday, the Detroit Tigers were leading the Pittsburgh Pirates by a score of 5-2 with one out in the ninth inning when Joba Chamberlain came in to relieve Phil Coke. Starting pitcher Max Scherzer had just twirled an eight inning, 14 strikeout gem, and the fear of the bullpen blowing yet another game was undoubtedly looming on the minds of many fans.
The first batter that Chamberlain faced was Starling Marte, who hit a slicing line drive that appeared to be headed towards the right field corner. However, the 39-year-old Torii Hunter sprawled out and made a tremendous diving catch, likely depriving Marte of extra bases. On most nights, Hunter no longer plays the nine-time Gold-Glove award winning defense he did in his younger days with the Minnesota Twins and Los Angeles Angels, but he certainly stirred up some of those memories with the catch he made yesterday. He still plays with a certain level of intensity, and that style of play can be contagious.
Hunter is also the guy who tumbled into the Boston Red Sox‘ bullpen last October in Game 2 of the 2013 ALCS, nearly catching the game-tying grand slam that David Ortiz slugged off of Joaquin Benoit.
By all accounts, Hunter is a player who wants to win. He has not shied away from speaking of his own desire to win a World Series championship, something he has still yet to accomplish over his 18-year MLB career. At 39 years of age, Hunter still brings energy and life to the Tigers, providing them with veteran leadership and a much-needed spark at times. Although he is not hitting with the type of average or getting on base at the clip he did just a season ago, his bat has remained productive nevertheless, posting a .273 batting average with a .760 OPS to go along with 15 home runs, 22 doubles and 64 RBIs.
Hunter has also earned the reputation for being one of the great guys of baseball, and his teammates, both past and present, seem to really enjoy him. Hopefully this is the year the Tigers can help him get the much-deserved World Series ring that he has been chasing for all of these years now.