I'm going to be upfront: I was never a big Torii Hunter fan. As I always say, I was more of a Jacque Jones person. The first jersey I bought for myself was Jacque Jones. The only bobblehead from my dementedly large collection that I carried with me throughout college was Jacque Jones. My favorite memory from all the many games I have been fortunate enough to see at Target Field is of Jacque Jones coming up to bat in the first exhibition game at the stadium.
But the real reason I didn't really like Torii Hunter—at least, not as much as compared to many other Twins fans—is and was because I always thought he thought he was Kirby Puckett. He is not Kirby Puckett.
Kirby Puckett was my hero. Most of my earliest memories are of Kirby Puckett. I'm not kidding. I remember the morning after Game 6—me, only 6 years old—waking up and running to my parents to ask what had happened, and them telling me what Kirby had done. Already being a staunch Kirby fan, and a child, I had expected that he would have done what he did. They promised to buy me a hat if the Twins won the World Series. I can remember that so clearly it is almost scary.
But guess what? Kirby Puckett turned out to be an awful person. He abused his wife, to the point he allegedly chain-sawed down a door to get to her and abuse her. Sports Illustrated came out with many of these details after he had retired and had already been inducted into the Hall of Fame. Trying to reconcile this with the player and public persona I knew was hard. It still is hard, especially as a woman.
But I can't shake it. I still cry every time I see the classic clips of Kirby.
Which is what got me on Wednesday. I had a tab open to search comments mentioning "Torii Hunter" on twitter and looked over the tweets coming out throughout the day. I kept seeing, "Welcome home, Torii Hunter." And I just started to cry. I'm not sure why. I'm not even particularly a Torii fan. Never owned a jersey, item, anything related to Torii (and unlike Jesse's lame-butt I have like 40+ jerseys and shirseys--phhhttt step up yo' game [just kidding (kinda)]), and yet there I was, just trying to wipe away soft tears because of the so many people who were happy Torii was "home".
Just thinking about Torii catching that Bonds Home Run in the All-Star Game; the dang look on his face when he looked around the corner of the door in that birthday party commercial; the Soul Patrol; how hammy he was in that Subway spot they used to play over and over on the jumbotron at games in the Dome... Yeah, even for me, never really a Hunter fan, I think the Twins tapped into some secret nostalgia.
I do not agree with Torii on his social rights and political views (AT ALL). I think he's a bigot. I don't believe he will particularly help the team on the field (but don't think he'll particularly hurt? Hopefully?). But for some reason this made me really emotional. Maybe just because I'm getting old. Maybe because I'm getting my period? Maybe just because I love to see the younger generation of fans (and Jesse?) get excited that their favorite player is coming "home", like he promised he would. I don't know. Probably like the same way I don't know why exactly I cry so easily when I see Kirby Puckett make that catch, or hit that home run.
I understand and support those who want to boycott the Twins and question this. I do not mean to support Torii's bigoted views in any way. Full heartedly. And Torii Hunter STILL IS NOT KIRBY PUCKETT—but I don't even know how much that is good or bad at this point.