Torii Hunter, one of my all-time favorite athletes in any sport, announced his retirement this week. It’s a sad week for Minnesota sports fans, especially coming so soon after Flip Saunders died way too young of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

Officially, Torii retired without winning a World Series Ring or even without reaching the Fall Classic. Hopefully, though, Paul Molitor will hire him as a coach or Terry Ryan will hire him as a minor league instructor to teach young Twins prospects the Twins way. Torii’s outgoing personality and Torii’s commitment to being the consummate professional were instrumental to the Twins’ revival this season.

If you’re a Torii Hunter fan, then you’ve got a lengthy list of Gold Glove-worthy plays that he made. To the national audience, though, there’s only one play that people are likely to remember. This is that play:

In the first inning of the All Star Game in Milwaukee, against Barry Bonds, Torii soared over the fence to steal a home run away from Bonds. Still, there were other plays that Twins fans will remember besides just that catch. Lifelong Twins fans won’t forget Torii barreling through White Sox catcher Jamie Burke in the opening game of a series in Chicago. After that collision, the White Sox played like a timid team. After that collision, the Twins played like they were the home team while sweeping the series.

In December of 2001, Major League Baseball tried to contract the Minnesota Twins but were unable to dissolve them thanks to a judge’s ruling. In February, 2002, I attended Twins spring training. After the workout, I got Torii’s autograph, which I still have. Though Torii was still young at the time, he was respectful of the fans. He carried on a conversation for over 45 minutes while signing autographs. Throughout the autograph session, Torii’s infectious smile shined brightly.

The thing about Torii isn’t just that he was a great athlete or that he was a charismatic leader. Certainly, he’ll be remembered as both of those things. It wasn’t just that he knew how to play pranks in the clubhouse or have fun with his teammates.

The thing I’ll remember most about Torii now that his playing days are over is that he was stubbornly professional. This year, he was essentially the father of the Twins outfield. At season’s end, Torii had taught Aaron Hicks, Byron Buxton and Eddie Rosario a ton of lessons on how to play the game right, to have fun and to be a professional. Aaron Hicks finally became a major league hitter. In 2013 and 2014, Hicks’ batting average was .201. This year, with Torii’s arrival, Hicks’ batting average improved to .256 with 11 home runs.

Thanks to Terry Ryan’s drafting and Torii Hunter’s leadership, the Twins outfield should be in good shape for years.

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