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Torii Hunter debuts as nervous, fun TV color commentator

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He wasn’t as loose and playful as fans remember him, but that’s okay. He was clearly taking his job seriously.

Cleveland Indians v Minnesota Twins Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

Last night’s Twins broadcast on FSN was a notable one as it was the color-analyst debut for beloved Twins Hall of Famer Torii Hunter. The network had announced last off-season that Hunter, along with his former teammate LaTroy Hawkins, would serve as occasional fill-ins for Bert Blyleven in 2017.

So how did Torii do? Well, he didn’t say anything inappropriate or accidentally drop any f-bombs, which is more than Blyleven can say.

But, on the other hand... he didn’t say anything inappropriate or accidentally drop any f-bombs.

Fans know Torii as the boisterous, fun-loving, and loud former-face of the Twins, but he wasn’t that last night during the broadcast. In fact, he actually seemed quite subdued and nervous. How so? He was talking less than you would expect, tripped up his words a little, and laughed a lot—the nervous-type “I’m not sure what to say” laughter, as opposed to the joyous-type “Oh my god one time Corey Koskie put peanut butter in David Ortiz’s underwear and he didn’t even notice” laughter.

By far my favorite interaction of the night came in in the bottom of the sixth inning, when this happened:

DICK BREMER: Years ago when Kepler was still in the minor leagues, I asked Paul Molitor—who was doing what you will be doing, roving around the minor leagues—I asked him about Kepler, and he said his swing reminded him a lot of Josh Hamilton’s. [Editor’s Note: Uh oh.]

TORII HUNTER: Yeah.

DICK BREMER: Well then my response was, “Let’s bring him up right away! [Editor’s Note: Oh God.]

TORII HUNTER: [nervous laughter]

DICK BREMER: Because Hamilton was tearing the cover off the ball. That brings to mind today, Josh Hamilton was released by the Texas Rangers [Editor’s Note: I can see where this is going but I can’t look away]. More knee issues. He was teammate of yours and when he was healthy, he was just so much fun to watch.

TORII HUNTER: Actually, he wasn’t a teammate of mine.

DICK BREMER: In Anaheim? Really? You were gone? [Editor’s Note: Literal face palm]

TORII HUNTER: I left in 2012. That’s actually the reason I got kicked out.

DICK BREMER: Oh really? I didn’t, uh, mean to bring up a sore subject...

Classic.

There’s definitely some rust that Torii needs to be shake off, but can you even call it rust if he’s never done this before? This isn’t like say, A.J. Pierzynski—who started regularly broadcasting games for Fox Sports this season, but had been a post-season commentator for them many times already in the past. Hunter had never actually done a broadcast before last night. He’d done in-game interviews and called in to MLB Network, but that’s about it as far as I know.

Overall, though, I thought Torii’s nervousness was fine and understandable. Maybe even cute? He was serious and he provided good game analysis. I suspect he will find his stride and get more comfortable as time goes on, and I’m looking forward to it.

How do you think Torii did?