ANAHEIM – I got my work in today, sitting out the final game of my suspension, and afterward at my locker I was telling the writers that I was serving out my sentence and had 24 hours to go before my release. I told them the first thing I was going to do was call my wife, then get a hamburger. They thought it was pretty funny.
The truth is, it’s been no fun at all sitting around watching my teammates bust their tails on TV, not being able to do anything. I’m a player, and not playing hurts as much as any injury. I never got used to it last year when I injured my groin running into walls and had to miss a chunk of the season. I’ll never get used to not playing until I’m retired, and that’s a long way off, I hope.
I told the media it’s probably a little blessing in disguise, giving me a little break, but I don’t ever like watching my team play knowing I could be doing something to help us win. I hate what happened in Detroit, the whole incident. I’m still frustrated, upset about that. I was heated, and I don’t like to be like that. But I have to let it go and move forward now, try not to think about it.
I’ve been asked a lot about making the move to right field to make room for young Peter Bourjos coming up to play center. The truth is, they didn’t come to me and say, “You’ve got to go to right field.’ They told me it was up to me. I had to think about it. I decided that if it made the team better, I was all for it. I had to think about the big picture, the long haul, and this could prolong my career, keep me on the field more. And that’s a good thing for everybody, I feel.
Bourjos is straight speed. That young man can fly. Watching him on the road trip run down some balls, even go after ones he didn’t get to, I was like, “Wow. That’s impressive.” As we play together more, I’ll know his range, what he can get to, and let him have it.
Right field is not center field. Center field is fun; you’ve got a lot of power out there. It’s a power trip, really. You can call off infielders, the left fielder, the right fielder. Anything you can get to, it’s yours. It’s not easy to give up something you love, whatever it is, and this isn’t easy for me. But if it makes the Angels better and helps us win, I’m all for it.
I’ve won nine Rawlings Gold Gloves and a Silver Slugger, but I’ve never won a World Series championship ring. That’s what we’re all playing for, and I’ll do whatever I can to help move us in that direction.
The toughest part of playing right field so far has been playing the corner. It’s a totally different look in right, with a lot of top-spin on the ball, hook and spin. When the ball’s hopping around in that corner, you’re thinking, “What are you going to give up, a double or a triple?” It’s something new for me to learn, and that’s a good thing. A guy told me a long time ago that once you think you’ve got it all figured out, your career’s over. I’ve got more to learn, so I’ve got some time left.
Mike Scioscia came over after the media guys left, and we talked for a while. He played against the guy who made me want to be a baseball player, Andre Dawson, and we talked about how he made the transition from center to right and actually became a more productive hitter. It was easier on his legs, and as a hitter, everything starts there. I see that as a good sign. I think I’m getting better all the time as a hitter, and I’m looking forward to seeing where this takes me – and our team.
There’s a lot of season left, and I’m ready to get back out there and bang some balls around and have some fun.
ARLINGTON – This was a big day for one of my early heroes. Andre Dawson was the guy I wanted to be like when I was a kid growing up in Pine Bluff, Ark. My granddad and I would watch games on WGN, and “The Hawk” was killing the ball and making great plays in right field for the Cubs. He ran the bases hard and he had a cannon, I remember that.
Andre had a huge influence on me with the way he played the game, his aggressive, all-out style. You could tell the man loved to play and was a fierce competitor, and that’s how I’ve always tried to be. I even copied his batting stance when I was a kid, before I found my own.
I heard about how great he was in Montreal, and how that artificial turf in the Expos’ park he played in for 10 years messed up his knees. Lyle Spencer, who covers us for MLB.com, has told me how much the Dodgers respected Andre back in the day when he was covering them. He thought The Hawk was the best player in the National League when he was a young center fielder covering ground, throwing guys out and hitting bombs for the Expos.
I can relate to what he went through, now that I’ve moved from the artificial turf in Minnesota to the natural surface, God’s green grass, in Southern California with the Angels. It makes a huge difference over the course of the season. I used to feel so beat up playing on that carpet. I’m really happy for the young Twins like my protégé Denard Span, who won’t have to go through what I did, and what Kirby Puckett went through playing center field on that hard turf.
It tells you a lot about Andre Dawson that he was able to get through that, get to Wrigley Field as a free agent, and show his stuff when he won the NL MVP award in 1987. If anybody had any doubts about him being a Hall of Fame player, that should have taken care of them. He led the league with 49 homers and 137 RBIs. That man could rake.
This is a great day for a great player and a good man. I also want to congratulate the other Hall of Famers who were enshrined today – Whitey Herzog, Doug Harvey, Jon Miller and Bill Madden. It’s the biggest honor in the game, and I’m sure they’re all having the time of their lives in Cooperstown, N.Y.
Whitey Herzog managed the Cardinals when they were my favorite team in the ’80s, with Ozzie Smith and Willie McGee, all those burners. Herzog turned out some great teams, and he’s very deserving. I’m sure he’s happy to go in with an umpire like Harvey, an announcer like Miller and a writer like Madden – along with The Hawk, of course.
Time to get ready for the series finale with the Rangers. We’ve got some work today.
This is the start of what I hope will be long-running relationship with fans at MLB.com. I’m looking forward to passing along to you on a weekly basis my thoughts and ideas, insights into the game, my take on events of the day, whatever is relevant. I think it’s important to make a connection with fans and keep it, because that relationship is vital to the health of the game we all love.
I feel blessed to be in a position to represent a great game and a great organization. That’s why I’ll often use “we” in the blog, since I’ll be speaking in many respects for teammates, hoping to promote our game, get more people involved.
To get this going, we’d like to start with inviting you to help us create a name, a title, for this blog. We’re asking for suggestions in the comments bar at the bottom of the blog. This is going to be an interactive process, so we might as well get it moving in that direction right away.
I am thrilled to be wearing an Angels uniform, playing in a great environment with a first-class organization. My first year in Anaheim had some great moments with 100 wins, most in the Majors, even if it didn’t end the way we all wanted. This season we’ll try to deliver six winning months again along with a happier ending in October. I am convinced we have the talent and the drive to get it done. Now it’s just a matter of going out and doing it.
Before we get into that, though, I’d like to talk a little bit about one of my passions off the field: getting young people out of their houses and outside, using their imaginations and creativity the way I did as a kid growing up in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, in some pretty rough circumstances.
I was always outside, using my athletic ability in some way in our neighborhoods. If I wasn’t playing catch with a baseball or football, I was riding a bike five miles to another neighborhood, then riding it back. I like to say I got my speed running from a dog, and I got my jumping ability leaping over a fence to get away from a dog. My throwing ability came from trying to hit trees with rocks. We were always outside competing in some way. It concerns me now that so few kids are doing that. Too many of our parks are empty, quiet.
With the technology we have today, too many kids are spending too much time playing video games, watching TV. It’s a fast-food culture, and it’s not good for our kids’ health. They need to be outside, developing their minds and their bodies in healthy ways. When I was a kid and wanted to be like Tony Dorsett or Andre Dawson or Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, I’d be doing it on a sandlot or a playground. Now kids are doing it with video games, and it’s just not the same. We have all these kids who are obese, and it’s a function of society, of spending all this time sitting in their houses.
That’s why it’s been so important to me with the Torii Hunter Project to work with kids, to build Little League fields, get kids outside playing games. It might not get a kid to the Major Leagues or the NBA or NFL, but it’s going to make them healthier and more productive in their lives. Even my own kids try to stay inside, but I’ll close the door and lock it. I tell them to go outside and play a game, any game. Invent one if you have to, but do something. I don’t want my kids inside the house all day.
Well, that’s a start. We’ve got a lot of ground to cover in the weeks ahead, and I’m looking forward to hearing from you.
So, when you get a minute, use your imagination — it’s one of your best resources — and help us come up with a name for this blog.
I’ll check in next week, and hopefully by then we’ll have a title that we think represents what we’re trying to do here.
Stay active, and stay positive.
My best, Torii