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Echoes Awoken
Albert Chen
February 04, 2013
THERE ARE STORIES OTHER THAN THE MANTI TE'O SAGA TO BE TOLD ABOUT NOTRE DAME—REALLY. HERE ARE TWO: FUTURE WIDEOUTS COREY ROBINSON AND TORII HUNTER JR. MAYBE THE NAMES OF THEIR DADS RING A BELL?
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February 04, 2013

Echoes Awoken

THERE ARE STORIES OTHER THAN THE MANTI TE'O SAGA TO BE TOLD ABOUT NOTRE DAME—REALLY. HERE ARE TWO: FUTURE WIDEOUTS COREY ROBINSON AND TORII HUNTER JR. MAYBE THE NAMES OF THEIR DADS RING A BELL?

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After Corey turned heads, the offers started to come—first from Notre Dame, then from Iowa, Kansas and Navy, among others. David began to see, for the first time, a killer competitive streak in Corey. Spend any time with the father and the son, and that fierce competitiveness eventually comes out. Just get them in the same room and ask them who is the better, say, piano player.

"That's a good question," David Sr. says one morning in San Antonio.

"What do you mean, good question?" retorts Corey, who took nine years of private lessons and plays everything from Chopin to Coldplay. "It's not close."

"You're a better musician, I'll give you that," says the father. "As far as the piano, you play more than I do right now. I just don't know if you play it better than me."

"Well," says the son, "we're going to have to settle this, won't we?"

The truth? Torii Hunter always thought that of all his sons—he has three of them, with three different mothers—Torii Jr. was the one destined to follow in his footsteps and become a star in baseball. "Torii Jr. was different—he changed me," says the father, who lived with Torii Jr. in Minneapolis, where he played nine seasons before signing with the Angels in 2008. "He was always watching me. I had to start carrying myself the right way, because I could always feel him watching." Sunday was Junior's favorite day growing up: It was kids' day at the Metrodome when the Twins were in town, and Torii Jr. would play T-ball on the field with the children of the other players. "He was always the fastest of all them," says Torii Sr. "I'd be hitting fly balls, and he'd be climbing the walls like his dad. He could dunk by the time he was in the eighth grade."

Torii Sr. tells Junior that he can be an All-Star in baseball. "He's ahead of where I was at his age," the father says. "I have more power than he has. He might be a little faster than me—but we've never raced, so I'm not going to give him that. I've got him on toughness. He's tough; but I was street tough, and he's suburbanite tough. But he can jump higher than me. And he's got the knowledge and the mind-set and the understanding of the game—I had none of that coming out of high school." Torii Sr. had a scholarship to play baseball at Arkansas when he was drafted 20th overall by the Twins in 1993. "When that happened, I was like, Whaaaat? I'd never heard of the Twins," he says. "My mom was a schoolteacher, and I had three brothers, and we were barely scraping by—I had to take the money to get my family out of debt."

When he was in the eighth grade, Torii Jr. thought about quitting football so that he could concentrate on baseball, "but somebody told me that you could get a scholarship in football, and that would pay for college," he says. "And at that time I really wanted to make my own name for myself, to make my own path, so I wanted to see if I could do that. It just happened that I turned out to be good at football."

As Torii Jr. bloomed into one of the top receivers in Texas—he had 1,235 receiving yards last year at Prosper to go with 14 touchdowns—the offers came from all around the country, from Notre Dame to Alabama to Oklahoma. At the same time, he was living up to his name on the baseball field as a five-tool centerfielder who reminded scouts of his father. The 6-foot, 172-pound senior was already starting to prepare for baseball season at Prosper when he participated in the Army All-American Bowl workout in San Antonio on New Year's Day. During one-on-one drills he was breaking to the outside early in a routine pass route when he abruptly fell to the ground, writhing in pain; he had broken his left femur. Baseball scouts had been talking about Hunter as a potential first-round pick, but any chance of that happening this summer was suddenly gone—he would have to sit out his final baseball season this spring, and he won't play football until June at the earliest. The father would never say, I told you so, but....

"We've had the conversation, 1,000 times, since he was a kid, about the risks, the wear and tear of football, and how for longevity, baseball is the better option," says Hunter, who at age 37 signed a two-year, $26 million free-agent deal with the Tigers in November for what will be his 15th and 16th big league seasons. "To me it's a no-brainer: Baseball is the way to go. Torii Jr. understands all of this, he really does. But he wanted football because he wanted the scholarship—he's never wanted anyone to give him anything. And how can you argue with a boy just wanting to make his own way?"

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