ANAHEIM -- Beloved former Angels outfielder Torii Hunter jumped on the conference call to announce a very personal selection in Day 3 of the Draft on Saturday: With their 23rd-round pick, the Angels had selected his son, Torii Hunter Jr., a center fielder from the University of Notre Dame.The younger
ANAHEIM -- Beloved former Angels outfielder Torii Hunter jumped on the conference call to announce a very personal selection in Day 3 of the Draft on Saturday: With their 23rd-round pick, the Angels had selected his son, Torii Hunter Jr., a center fielder from the University of Notre Dame.
The younger Hunter, six months away from graduating, is better known as a wide receiver for the Fighting Irish, but he has picked up baseball again after a two-year hiatus.
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The Angels believe he is committed enough to ultimately sign with them.
"I'm excited," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said of Hunter Jr., whom he got to know in the five years his father spent with the Angels. "This kid's a great kid; he's a great athlete. As good a football player as he is, I know he loves baseball. Hopefully he'll get that chance."
Hunter Jr. last played a full season of baseball in his junior year for Prosper High School in Texas, batting .393 with six home runs and 13 stolen bases in 2012. A broken femur -- suffered during a workout at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio in January 2013, just as his high school football career was wrapping up -- kept him away from baseball for two full years.
Hunter Jr. sat out both sports as a Notre Dame freshman, then played football as a sophomore and joined the baseball team the following spring. He spent his sophomore and junior year as a part-time outfielder, playing in a combined 23 games and drawing only one start.
Hunter Jr.'s baseball coach, Mik Aoki, raved about his athleticism, speed and defense, but noted that his swing needs work.
"The thing that he needs more than anything is an opportunity, for someone -- in this case the Angels -- to just give him two or three seasons and see if he can figure out the bat," Aoki said. "If he can figure out the bat, he can be a big leaguer."
The elder Hunter, now 40, retired at the end of the 2015 season after carving out a distinguished 19-year career, which included nine Gold Glove Awards, five All-Star Game appearances, 353 home runs, 2,452 hits and a .277/.331/.461 slash line.
Hunter Jr. is in line to graduate in December and is said to want to play out his senior year of football. The 21-year-old is able to sign a professional contract in the summer, play football in the fall, then play in the Minor Leagues the ensuing spring.
The Angels would be just fine with that, said longtime scouting director Ric Wilson, who is "very" confident that they will be able to sign Hunter Jr.
The Angels worked Hunter Jr. out leading up to the Draft and were told that he wants to follow in his father's footsteps and play baseball professionally.
"So we were willing to take a chance," Wilson said. "It's hard to turn those kind of tools away. He can run, he's got some power, he's got some strength to him; he's very, very athletic. We'll roll the dice, see what we've got. It's hard to go wrong when you take athletes."
Hunter Jr. certainly qualifies.
He was good enough to be a 36th-round Draft pick by the Tigers out of high school in 2013, even though he sat out his senior year. And with 28 receptions for 363 yards and a couple of touchdowns as a junior, he may also be good enough to be selected in the NFL Draft.
Hunter Jr. -- a right-handed hitter, just like his dad -- is listed at 6-foot-2, 180 pounds, and is still raw at baseball.
College players usually gain a lot of necessary seasoning playing in the summer and fall, but Hunter Jr. spent those seasons playing football. His arm is "not great," and his swing is "a little on the longer side," but Aoki believes the latter can be ironed out by focusing on baseball and seeing pitches more consistently.
"I think the thing that stands out to you -- more than anything, to be honest -- is just what a phenomenal kid he is," Aoki said. "Mature, a great teammate, and has just a really kind of humble confidence about him. In this age of Twitter and Instagram, and kids sometimes pumping themselves up through maybe some false means, Torii is incredibly refreshing."
Alden Gonzalez has covered the Angels for MLB.com since 2012. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.