Hunter still loves Twins and their fans

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 20, 2009 - 1:33 PM

The popular center fielder speculated he might end his career playing at Target Field, the Twins' new stadium.

Torii Hunter, who played 11 years with the Twins and is in his second year with the Los Angeles Angels after signing a five-year, $90 million deal with them as a free agent in November 2007, said Sunday that he could envision ending his baseball career by playing at Target Field, the new Twins stadium set to open next season.

"I think it's definitely possible. This is where I grew up," said Hunter, who went 3-for-10 in the three-game series sweep by the Twins.

The center fielder said he still loves Twins fans.

"I know I'm on an opposing team," Hunter said, "but I still love them and hopefully they still love me."

Hunter said he is happy playing with the Angels, but he still loves the Twins.

"I've still got a soft spot for the Minnesota Twins, and it's always tattooed to my heart," he said. "This is where I grew up. [But] the Angels management has been awesome for me so far.

"No regrets at all. You've gotta do what you've gotta do. It just didn't work out between me and the club and now I've moved on, but like I said, I'll never forget the place that I grew up. I grew up here, and one day I might come back and play. You never know."

Hunter said he renewed friendships with a lot of his former Twins teammates on this trip.

"I'm not allowed in the clubhouse," he said. "I just go in [Twins manager Ron Gardenhire's] office and mess around with him and they were coming in, talking to me."

In the first game of the series Friday, the Twins twice intentionally walked the hitter before Hunter to pitch to him. Hunter walked one time and popped out the other time.

Harris swings hot bat

Leading the Twins in hitting is Brendan Harris with a .407 average (11-for-27 in 11 games) after going 5-for-13 in the series with the Angels.

Harris played second base in two games and third base in one during the three-game series with the Angels. Gardenhire described Harris as "a good role guy. He plays everywhere, he plays good at third base and in the middle he does OK. But he can swing the bat; we've always known that.

"He's a decent fielder. He's not above average at second. At shortstop, he does a really good job. Second base is a little harder for him. But he works so stinking hard, you've got to keep running him out there.

"He comes in and prepares really well every day. He swung the bat good in his role last year [hitting .265 in 130 games]. There was a stretch when he was playing shortstop that he hit the ball really good. He was one of our hotter hitters for almost a month."

Turned down Wild

Brian Burke, general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs, told the Toronto Sun in an e-mail that he has refused to give Wild management permission to interview Burke's right-hand man, Dave Nonis, for the Wild's general manager position vacated by the firing of Doug Risebrough.

Nonis worked with Burke at Vancouver and Anaheim and now is the Leafs' senior vice president and director of hockey operation.

"[Nonis] has no out [clause]," Burke said in an e-mail to the Sun.

The Sun reported that "according to Nonis' contract with the Leafs, he doesn't have an out clause in the deal until the summer of 2010."

It's too bad Burke, who attended Edina West High School, is not available for the job.

Jottings

The new Rivals.com "Rivals150" basketball ratings have Gophers recruit Royce White of Hopkins staying at 19th in the country, but his future college teammate, Rodney Williams Jr. of Cooper, dropped five spots to 100. White played in the Michael Jordan Brand Classic game Saturday at Madison Square Garden, starting for the White team against the Black and scoring 10 points.

Now that Twins bullpen coach Rick Stelmaszek is healthy, you no longer will see former Twins manager Tom Kelly in uniform for pregame workouts. Kelly filled in for Stelmaszek after he was hospitalized for fatigue and missed the season's first nine games. Kelly hasn't changed his mind about not wanting to manage again.

It is sad two popular owners of baseball clubs won't get the chance to enjoy their new stadiums. Carl Pohlad lived day by day, hoping he would be around when the Twins played their first game in Target Field, before he died Jan. 5. George Steinbrenner attended Thursday's opening game of the new Yankee Stadium, but his poor health has limited his activities.

Gophers infielder Derek McCallum went 14-for-22 with six home runs and 20 RBI in five games last week. He had back-to-back games with six RBI. McCallum, a junior from Hill-Murray, extended his hitting streak to 20 games and is leading the Gophers with a .404 batting average, .709 slugging percentage, 10 homers and 52 RBI.

Michigan leads the Big Ten with eight verbal football commitments for 2010. The Gophers, with four, are tied for second with Ohio State.

The Twins have announced that their game vs. Oakland on Sept. 12 will start at 1 p.m., to avoid interfering with the Gophers' 6 p.m. start for their first game in TCF Bank Stadium, against Air Force. ... The Twins will honor former third baseman Corey Koskie in pregame ceremonies May 23 when they play the Brewers.

On Thursday, the Gophers football team had 60 professors as practice and dinner guests who were selected by the players as their favorite professors. Then on Saturday, 400 youngsters ages 8 to 12 were guests of the athletic department and went through the normal Gophers football practice routine, with players handling the different routines instead of the coaches.

Ohio State continues to rob the state of top athletes with Tayler Hill, the great Minneapolis South girls' basketball player, the latest to pick the Buckeyes. Before Hill there was former Wayzata linebacker James Laurinaitis, a three-time All-America selection, and Willie Mobley, the former Eden Prairie standout defensive end who sat out last year because of an injured shoulder. Also there was P.J. Hill, brother of Tayler, who played at Minneapolis North and started some basketball games for Ohio State last season.

Travis Busch, who is leaving the Gophers basketball team because there isn't a scholarship available for him, has more than 10 schools recruiting him, including Winona State, Nebraska-Omaha and Concordia (St. Paul).

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO AM-830 at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on his Podcast once a week at www.startribune.com/sidcast. shartman@startribune.com

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