On Friday it was announced that Torii Hunter will be inducted into the Twins Hall of Fame this season along with longtime retired Twins announcer John Gordon. That just shows how highly the Twins think of Hunter’s impact on the team and the community.
Hunter said Thursday that he is adjusting to life as a retired player by spending a lot of time with his family, especially with a granddaughter who Hunter says has him wrapped around her finger.
When asked if he ever considers retiring a mistake, Hunter brought up another former Minnesota player. “Oh man, I don’t want to pull a Brett Favre,” he said.
Still, Hunter has accepted the Twins’ invitation to come to spring training.
“I’ll be in spring training, I’ll be there February 26th, I think, until March 6th,” Hunter said. “I’ll be a special assistant instructor or something like that. I don’t know my title but just kind of move around and help the guys and have fun. I’ll just kind of motivate them a little bit.”
One of the big challenges for the Twins staff will be preparing highly touted prospect Miguel Sano to transition from third base to the outfield, and Hunter will help with that.
“I definitely think Sano making that transition from third base to the outfield, he’s going to really need to put in some work and need some help,” Hunter said. “I think Butch [Davis, first base coach who also helps with outfielders] is going to do a great job of doing that. While I’m there I’m just going to give my two cents and help him out and use my experience. That’s why I’m there. I’m there for everybody, but Sano is going to need more help than anybody.”
Hunter started 121 games in right field last season, and he thinks Sano should be able to adjust to that position because it’s slightly easier than left field, which he said requires a bit more athleticism.
“Because of the high wall I think it’s a better position for a guy that’s transitioning,” he said, “because once the ball is hit over your head you can kind of let the ball hit the wall, play it off the wall. I definitely think right field might be the best spot for him.”
Hunter said that for as long as the Twins need any help with their team, he’ll be there for the organization.
“I’m here for life, a Twin for life,” he said. “Whenever they call on me I’ll be here. ... I’m going to miss it a whole lot. I was in love with this game, married to the game. I did a lot for this game, and the game has done a lot for me. I definitely think I’m going to miss it. I miss it right now.”
Claeys on hires
Tracy Claeys’ decision to fire Matt Limegrover and Jim Zebrowski surprised a lot of people, but Claeys believes the team has hired two new coaches with a different approach in offensive coordinator Jay Johnson and offensive line coach Bart Miller.
“Jay Johnson I had known because we had considered hiring Jay before at Southern Illinois and a couple of places we were at,” Claeys said. “So he was somebody that was initially on my list, and then the more I checked into it, the more I called, I thought he was a good fit for what we want to do. What he has done is very similar to what we have done. He has just been more one-back and more diverse in doing it. Him with his experience being a coordinator, once the two of us get working together in spring and fall camp he’ll be able to run the offense in the fall and be in charge. I’m excited about that.
“Bart, I just think he brings a toughness for the game, and he’s not that far removed from playing. Everybody who told me said he did a tremendous job of developing players. I think he’ll put a toughness into us, and that will improve our running game. They’re both great additions, and I think they’re exactly what we needed to get over the hump and be there to challenge for the Big Ten Championship next year.”
Another coach who stuck with the program is former quarterback and current graduate assistant Adam Weber.
“He did a great job with the quarterbacks, and we’ll still let him work with the quarterbacks,” Claeys said. “That will allow Coach Johnson to move around in the spring as we practice and make sure everything is up to the way he wants it done. We look forward to having Adam back. He’s a great coach, did a great job for the bowl game working with [quarterback] Mitch [Leidner].”
Signing day for the next class of Gophers is coming up Wednesday, and Claeys is optimistic this is going to be a great group of players.
“There’s always a chance that there could be a few changes, but right now it will be the most talented class that we’ve signed since we’ve been here,” Claeys said. “I believe that. We got a lot of good kids in there that are athletic and will replace the ones that have left here. The question is that most of them will take a year or two to contribute, but as a staff we talked about it the other day that if we can finish this off it will be the most talented class that we’ve had since we’ve been here.”
• The Wall Street Journal took an unfair shot at Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater with the headline “The NFL’s Least Exclusive Invite: The Pro Bowl.” The article read: “Minnesota’s quarterback Teddy Bridgewater ranked 22nd in the NFL in passing the past season. He finished 26th in touchdown passes and wound up 22nd in quarterback rating. In most years, those numbers would make for a fairly mediocre season. This year they made Bridgewater an all-star.”
• The Gophers basketball team has lost two heartbreakers to ranked teams after its 74-68 loss at No. 19 Indiana, in which it committed just four turnovers but couldn’t find scoring answers down the stretch. If the Gophers want to notch their first Big Ten victory, it better come Thursday at Northwestern (3-6) because after that they play Michigan (6-2) at home, at Iowa (7-1) and Maryland (7-2) at home before they host Rutgers (0-8). ... Michael Hurt from Rochester John Marshall, one of three Gophers basketball recruits for next season, is averaging 18.3 points, 9.1 rebounds and 8.7 assists per game. He recently broke John Mattison’s scoring record with his 1,428th point.
• Former Gophers football star Darrell Thompson has two sons playing at Robbinsdale Armstrong — True Thompson, a senior who has been offered a preferred walk-on scholarship in football by the Gophers, and Race Thompson, a sophomore who has been offered a basketball scholarship by the Gophers.
• The Gophers received commitments from two junior college offensive linemen in Vincent Calhoun Jr. and Garrison Wright. Calhoun turned down an offer from Mississippi State to attend the U, and Wright turned down an offer from TCU to sign with the Gophers.