Torii Hunter and my all-time favorites

Was just watching a little MLB Network. Saw an interview with Torii Hunter, and was reminded how much I always liked the guy.

When Hunter was a young player with the Twins, Sports Illustrated sent me to Minneapolis to hang with him. In a word: Fantastic. We spent the day driving around, talking, etc. I don’t recall anything spectacular, just that he was a nice, honest, decent, friendly individual. In fact, inspired by Hunter’s appearance, here’s my top-of-the-head All-Nice Guy lineup from my years covering the majors:

C-Sal Fasano: Simply the best, without question

1B-Sean Casey: There has never been a friendlier human being to walk the planet.

2B-Delino DeShields: Most writers didn’t like. But I found him to be extremely intelligent and honest.

SS-David Eckstein: As human as they come.

3B-Robin Ventura: Smart, and understood the oddness of the writer-ballplayer relationship.

OF-Shawn Green: Just a cool dude. And Jewish bonus points!

OF-Gary Sheffield: Strange to be on this list, but I can’t recall a boring moment with him.

OF-Ken Griffey, Jr.: As entertaining as they came.

DH-Mike Sweeney: A truly nice and humble man.

P-Dwight Gooden: Too nice for his own good.

P-Steve Traschel: Always accesible and reasonable.

P-Gregg Olson: The reliever, not the catcher.

P-Kerry Lightenberg: I wonder if he still has the lambchops.

P-Paul Wilson: Coulda shoulda been a great Met.

Manager: Tony Muser: Players hated him. I always liked the guy.

8 thoughts on “Torii Hunter and my all-time favorites”

  1. This team, if they all had their best years at the same time, would probably have won a championship. 29 homers from Sweeney’s 2000, Sheffield’s 42 HRs and 1.090 OPS from 96, Griffey’s ridiculous 97 season and his 56 HRs and 1.028 OPS… Robin Ventura’s first season as a Met. Put those four guys in the middle of the lineup, Deshields leading off. Damn. They’re going to score some runs.

    Pitching staff is a little weak after Gooden… but hey. I think they’ll score enough runs you could throw Victor Zambrano out there and it’s not going to matter.

  2. We don’t care about the nice guys, we want to know about the bad ones.

    PS Yes, we care about the nice guys, but the bad sell more papers.

  3. The funniest Delino DeShields story doesn’t even involve him so much.

    When I was in college, I went to a school that was DII in everything but hockey. One Friday night I found myself in a girl’s room watching a movie and the team’s goalie and backup goalie came in.

    They were both from Quebec and in broken English noticed my Expos hat. I asked them if they heard about the day’s Expos trade.

    “What trade?”
    “Montreal sent Delino DeShields to the Dodgers for Pedro Martinez.”

    The starting goalie’s face went ash white and he said something in French to the backup.

    All of a sudden the backup screams, “Delinoooooooooooo NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!”

    In the next few years as Delino’s stock plummeted and Pedro’s stock rose, I would think back on this conversation and have a good chuckle.

  4. Don’t know how he was for others, but maybe you can find a backup SS spot for Kevin Stocker.

    When I was a young and unsure sportswriter (though 10 months older than Stocker), no one was nicer to me than Kevin Stocker. This was the summer of 1998 when Tampa Bay was playing at Cleveland.

    I was asking players about their first career HRs. Stocker was just sitting there so I approached them. He greeted me with a smile, pulled up a chair for me (glad Arthur Rhodes wasn’t on that team), and talked my ear off. I don’t remember anything he said, but I sure remember how kind he was.

    I got the feeling he was like that for everyone.

  5. That Torii pinata clip is one of my favorite videos ever …

    I am definitely in agreement with your team though there are so many other guys I would add if I had time to think about it …

    Why not go for a Sweeney clean sweep and add Mark, who may not be as choirboy sweet as Mike but is absolutely hilarious?

    … and ditto on Delino. He was my first player cover story and a delight to deal with (and remains so in his new baseball life as minor league manager) … but would also add his teammate/best friend Marquis Grissom to the list …

    Charles Johnson, who spent and hour and a half talking to me for a story in 1997 and when we were done made me promise that if there was anything more I needed I wouldn’t hesitate to ask …

    Dave Roberts, maybe the nicest guy in baseball, right up there in Sean Casey territory …

    Kevin Millar. Eric Byrnes (especially when tag-teaming with Jason Hart).

    Ah, I’ll stop now or I’ll go on forever.

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