Here's a tip for you fellow writers and bloggers out there, if you ever cover Torii Hunter or the Minnesota Twins, watch what you say. An article you write on a minor leaguer in the system can come back to haunt you, especially if it involves Torii Hunter.
Jim Mandelaro keeps a blog at the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle in which he covers the Rochester Red Wings, and other stories in MLB. He's been writing for the paper for the last 16 years. He had a unique encounter with Hunter last Friday, and it's probably best I let Jim tell you the story.
Well, after the jump anyway.
In yesterday's blog, I jokingly wrote that Torii Hunter and I were buds. Torii had come over to me while I was interviewing Chris Heintz, stuck his Blackberry in my face and asked if I had written the article on his screen. It was a freelance piece I had done on Red Wings shortstop Tommy Watkins, a journeyman whose dream came true when he played at Fenway Park for Rochester last August.
Well, in the piece, I wrote that over the years Tommy's defense has more resembled Ozzie Nelson than Ozzie Smith. It was a cute throwaway line, and I never thought twice about it. I think the world of Tommy. He's a hardworking guy, and everybody loves him. He should be proud of his perseverence through eight years of playing in the low minors.Hunter apparently doesn't see it that way.
After yesterday's brief encounter, I felt emboldened enough to approach him at his locker today, which is in the far end of the clubhouse. It could not have gone worse.
I asked Torii if he would comment on two of his proteges, Watkins and Wings center fielder Denard Span, for stories I was doing this week. Torii immediately said he would not talk to me because of the "Ozzie Nelson" line in my story. I was absolutely stunned, floored. But I could tell right away he was not kidding.I told Hunter I was shocked. I told him I had been telling everyone what a great guy he was, how he had paid for Span's flight to Dallas in January so that Span could work out with him.Hunter didn't want to hear any of it. He said he knew he was a great guy and didn't need me telling him. He became increasingly angry.
Then he did something that will burn a negative image of the "great" Torii Hunter in my mind forever. He ordered me out of the clubhouse. He used a certain profanity numerous times. I knew better than to challenge him, and I made the long walk from the back of the clubhouse to the front, passing one Twin after another. All of them had stunned, not angry, looks on their faces. He told me to get my "Rochester a**" out of the room. I have it on tape. I had hit "record" in preparation for the interview. I just played it for the writers up here in the press box. They couldn't believe it either. They told me of a similar incident toward the end of last year, when Torii went off on a beat writer for printing a quote from Hunter that was negative toward Minnesota's opponent the next day, the Kansas City Royals. But other than that, apparently has been a solid citizen.
I'm not sure if this is just a case of Hunter doing everything he can to protect another player, or just being an overreactive DB, but since I may soon enter a Twins locker room in the near future all I can say is this.
Torii Hunter is the greatest human being on the face of this, or any other planet. I one day hope to be half the man that Torii Hunter is, though I know I can't be for Mr. Hunter is a God and I am nothing but a mortal.
(Ridiculously complicated handshake to Aaron Gleeman)
Previously at the Fanhouse: