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A sometimes-irreverent look at Detroit's Boys of Summer, the Tigers, as they try to return to the top of the American League Central.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Rejuvenated Torii Hunter could see himself playing beyond '14: 'I'm slim, trim, ready to go, babe'

BOSTON — He’s never made any bones about the fact that he came to town for one reason.

Shoot, he changed his Twitter bio to “Found a job! Headed to Motown to win that ring!” as the news was still breaking about his signing by the Detroit Tigers.

But the perception that Torii Hunter is on his last legs, hoping to squeak his way to a World Series title might be a bit overblown.

It’s not like he needs a walker, just yet.

Yes, he signed with the Tigers for two years to try to win a title here, but that doesn’t mean he’s done after the 2014 season, especially since the change of scenery seems to have rejuvenated him.

“I wanted to stay out there in Anaheim at the time where I was playing, and it just didn’t work out for me. I was going through a lot. My son had some issues. My oldest son had some issues. And my mind was cloudy. I wanted to go home and be with my family through this issue. But we got through it. And I had a good season last year,” said Hunter, who constantly insists he’s 28, rather than 38.

“Then I came to the Tigers and rejuvenated. I’m laughing in the clubhouse every day. I feel like I’m 26, and with Prince (Fielder), and Miguel (Cabrera) and (Ramon) Santiago and Victor (Martinez) and Austin Jackson in that clubhouse, I think those guys have made me young again.

“I’ve been laughing with tears in my eyes in the clubhouse all year. They brought back the fun for me, and the fight. ... I could see myself playing beyond 2014, no doubt about it. I’m slim, trim and ready to go, babe.”

Things did not work out in Anaheim for Hunter. He did not see eye-to-eye with Angels owner Arte Moreno and his management team on salary, and decided to move on. He’s said a billion times that the Tigers were his first choice, just because of the solid nucleus that he knew he’d be joining.

“I definitely think when I saw the ballclub, it wasn’t about money. I twas just ‘Give me what’s fair.’ I came in, I said, ‘Give me what’s fair. If you give me what’s fine, we’ll sign right now.’ They gave me my fair offer, ($13 million). ... I didn’t want to negotiate, we’re done, this is what I want to play for.

“You are what you are. You’re going to get paid what you’re going to get paid. You don’t have to go higher — if you want to you could, but you don’t have to. With me, I’m a veteran guy. I made my money. I’m about winning a World Series Championship.”

After 17 seasons, that’s a priority. And, yes, time is probably starting to get short.

This trip to the postseason with the Tigers is Hunter’s seventh.

And he’s never been further than where he stands right now, in the American League Championship Series.

“I mean, it’s important for every Major League Baseball player to get to the World Series. But just for me individually, 17 seasons, and been to the postseason seven times, three LCSs and failed,” Hunter said, pointing at his teams’ inability to get past the Yankees, more often than not. “But it’s vital that I get there. I see this all the time, guys jumping up and down on the field at the end of the season, during the World Series, at the end of the World Series, and I’m sitting on my couch and having a Coors Light. And you know, you’re sitting there, and you’re seeing those guys. And you just kind of soak it in.

“That’s the way you want to be. It’s my dream. And I’m going to keep fighting and keep trying to get there, to my dream, and watching those guys on the field celebrate. I just try to imagine myself doing that.”

The Tigers came into Sunday three wins shy of making it back to a second straight World Series and a third in seven seasons.

But that’s still an eternity from here.

“We have a long way to go, but that’s my ultimate goal, is to win the World Series. I’m sure it is for every Major League Baseball player. But for me individually, it’s been a long time coming,” he said. “A lot of the guys in the clubhouse are young, 22, 23, they think they’re going to have an opportunity to do it later on. But when you’re young and you’re playing in the postseason — I don’t care if it’s the National League or American League — you better cherish this moment. You might not get a chance to do it again.

“Cherish the moment right now.”


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