According to Lavalle Neal of the Minneapolis Star Tribune, 40-year-old Minnesota Twins outfielder Torii Hunter has decided to retire after a 19-year career that spanned three teams.
“I thank the Angels for adopting me and making me part of the Angels family, all the teammates I had over there,” Hunter told the Star Tribune. “The Angels fans, love them. There’s the Tigers organization, Mr. [Mike] Ilitch and their fans.
“But most of all, the Minnesota Twins fans and organization. The Polhads, Terry Ryan, the coaching staff. Ron Gardenhire, Tom Kelly. I thank those guys for showing me how to take responsibility, how to carry yourself. The Twins fans, you can’t beat them. That’s my family. The city is my love.”
Hunter first broke into the big leagues with the Twins in 1997, but didn't become an everyday player until the 1999 season. He ended up playing for the Twins for 11 years, and quickly became known as a fan favorite who always played the game the right way.
After the 2007 season, Hunter left Minnesota via free agency and signed with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim where he spent five seasons. From there he moved on and suited up for the Detroit Tigers. After spending two years with the Tigers, Hunter announced last offseason that he had signed a two-year contract with the Twins.
Over his 19 years in the big leagues, Hunter accumulated a career slash line of .277/.331/.461 with 353 home runs, 1,391 RBI and 2,452 hits. Hunter is a five-time All-Star, 10-time Gold Glover and two-time Silver Slugger. During his prime, he was an elite defensive center fielder who would average over 20 home runs and 90 RBI.
In the 2015 season with Minnesota, Hunter slashed .240/.293/.409, well off his career averages, with 22 home runs and 81 RBI. When the Twins season ended, there were rumors that he would retire, which increased when it was revealed that he had arranged for his son to fly to Minnesota for the Twins regular season finale. At the time, he said that he would take some time and talk it over with his family. He mentioned that, "The decision could come tomorrow, it could come next week, it could even come in March."
Twins fans will always remember him from his first stint in Minnesota, when he took over the center field position from Kirby Puckett, who was forced to retire during spring training of 1998 due to glaucoma resulting from being hit in the face with a pitch during September of 1997. During his first stint, he always seemed to make the impossible play look normal. His plays ranged from leaping at the fence, to robbing an opposing player of a home run, to diving at the last second to catch a fly ball.
While the loss of Hunter will impact the Twins, the future of the Twins' outfield seems to be in good hands with superstar prospects like Byron Buxton and Max Kepler set to take over. Who knows, one of them may end up being the next Torii Hunter.