Gator Hunter? Torii talks about close encounter
LAKELAND, Fla. -- No, Torii Hunter didn't actually kiss an alligator. But he got close enough to make himself nervous.
"I didn't actually kiss it," Hunter said Wednesday morning. "I was on the backside of it. I'm definitely afraid, and my wife wouldn't kiss me after that. What if he broke loose and bit my nose off? Noseless Torii."
He also got closer than Miguel Cabrera was ever willing to get when teammates presented him with the alligator during the team's regular morning meeting Tuesday.
"It was cool. We had some fun. I was scared. That's my fear. I had never touched a gator. That was my fear and I overcame it. I got close, right in his face, and touched him in the eyeballs and everything."
The setup revolved around manager Brad Ausmus' well-chronicled 9:30 a.m. meetings. Sometimes, players are sent out on projects around the area. Drew VerHagen, for instance, had to go to the circus across the street early in camp and interview some of the performers. In this case, Hunter said, Daniel Fields, Ramon Cabrera and others were sent to Gatorland in nearby Kissimmee.
"They all went to Gatorland and did a little skit," Hunter said. "They had a video and they were talking with a mic and just kind of walking around and talking to people and touching different animals and different reptiles. Then they showed it in here. At the end of it, the lights came on and they brought a FedEx package to Miguel Cabrera and it was a gator.
"Miguel started running around the clubhouse. He was running, and they were trying to give him the package. We just all took pictures of it and [Justin] Verlander said, 'I dare you to kiss it.'"
It was not a small gator, either. Hunter estimated it to be four or five feet long.
The gator presumably went back to Gatorland, though Hunter has no idea where it came from or where it's going.
"Probably some boots," Hunter said. "It's probably boots right now."