Torii Hunter: father first, friend second — and champion athlete



SOECharlesHallmansquareTorii Hunter hit his 300th career home run last Sunday in Minnesota for Detroit. While almost every other reporter chatted him up on his historic feat, this reporter instead asked Hunter about being a Black father on Father’s Day. He and his wife Katrina have four sons: Cameron, Darius, Torii Jr. and Monshadrik.

“I tried to raise them the right way and give them everything they need in life, and try to give them that correction so when they grow up and leave my home, they won’t depart from it. That was what I was always taught to do,” offered Hunter.

“I want to be a father first, and then a friend second,” he said proudly. “All your failures you’ve done in life, you try to correct them with your kids. My failures are what made me better, and that’s why I can be the best father I can be. That’s what all fathers should do. Everybody doesn’t get that title of ‘Happy Father’s Day’ — you can’t say that to everybody, because not everybody is a father. Some are just dads and some are just there.”

Three of his sons earned college football scholarships: Torii Jr., who earlier this month was drafted by his father’s team, will play football at Notre Dame this fall; Darius is at Southeastern Louisiana and Monshadrik “Money” at Arkansas State.

Darius filed a $40 million lawsuit in April after sexual assault charges were dropped two months earlier. He and four other students were arrested and charged last May. It was later learned that Hunter’s son was falsely accused, but by then he was expelled from his high school and had to attend an alternative school, and several scholarship offers were withdrawn as a result.

“They are good kids and are going off to college,” said Hunter of his children. More importantly, Hunter noted that he didn’t want to be a stereotype — an absentee Black father.

“I wanted to beat that stereotype,” stated Hunter. “I always said I would be there for my kids and show them the right way. Not my way or my grandparents’ way, or my daddy’s way, but I was going to try and learn how to be a father and show them the right way. I tried to instill great things in them and let them have boundaries, make great decisions on their own so that when they make mistakes, they know how to bounce back from them.”

As for his historic career milestone Sunday, “I just wanted one [home run] in the major leagues,” admitted Hunter afterwards in the Twins’ visitors’ clubhouse. “It’s kind of weird and ironic. I hit my first home run in a Twins uniform against the Tigers in old Tiger Stadium, and then hit my 300th home run here at Target Field against the Twins with the Tigers.

“As a young kid, just to get to the major leagues, that was a dream for everybody,” recalled Hunter, who “grew up” as a professional athlete in the Minnesota organization, where he played for 11 seasons after being drafted in the first round of the 1993 draft. He left for Anaheim as a free agent after the 2007 season. He joined the Tigers this past off-season also as a free agent. “I was playing football at the time, so I thought I would be an NFL player rather than an MLB player. After 17 years, I’m still learning the game.

“That’s one thing I always say — I was going to keep learning no matter how much time I got in or how old I was,” said Hunter, a 14-year veteran outfielder. “I’m going to try to learn the game and get better. After 17 years [in baseball], I’m still learning the game. That’s why I am still around.”

But his proudest achievement is off the field.

“You have to be a father and father your kids,” said Hunter. “That is something I always tried to do.”


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