Angels let Hunter fulfill most important role
OF missed 14 games while attending to son's legal troubles
ANAHEIM -- When Torii Hunter found out two weeks ago that his teenage son was ensnared in legal trouble back home in Dallas, the Angels veteran outfielder went into manager Mike Scioscia's office and discussed the problem.Scioscia immediately told Hunter to go home. "That decision wasn't tough at all," Scioscia said on Monday at Angel Stadium before his club played the Yankees. "We all love this game and understand the sense of duty you have to this game, but when there's things that you have to take care of at home with your family, that's obviously a priority." Scioscia treated Hunter the way he had been brought up as a young catcher in the Dodgers organization. And when Hunter returned to the team on Monday after the prolonged absence on the restricted list, he seemed very secure about the time he was able to spend with his family trying to resolve the issue. Darius McClinton-Hunter was arrested with several other boys on suspicion of sexual assault of a female student at Prosper High School in Dallas. The younger Hunter is 17. Torii Hunter knew it was time to return to the team when he saw a smile cross his son's face this weekend after they had gone to see a movie, "The Avengers." It's now in the hands of local attorneys and Hunter feels his family can handle the situation. Hunter said he's not sure whether his son will be charged or if he will have to testify in front of a grand jury investigating the incident. He will go home for that again if he has to. "Through all this stuff, my family and I, we got a little closer," Hunter said about his wife and three boys while sitting in the Angels dugout on Monday. "This was one of the hardest things I ever had to go through. This is my son. This is my blood. To watch him cry every night and go through this stuff, it's was pretty tough. I don't wish this on any father out there. We talked a lot. In the last few days, I felt like they were getting better and could handle it from here." There's a tendency to believe that Major League front offices have become more compassionate to players, but Scioscia said for him it has always been family first. The Twins handled their own situation with similar grace this past spring when Jason Marquis' 7-year-old daughter, Reese, fell awkwardly off a bicycle and suffered life-threatening internal bleeding. While the Twins broke camp in Fort Myers, Fla., they made arrangements for Marquis, a native of Staten Island, N.Y., to continue his training with their Double-A club in New Britain, Conn., until his daughter improved enough so he could rejoin the big league team. Marquis' daughter is now fine and back to school, although he's now a free agent after being released. "For me to go through something like this, a family matter. For them to have my back the whole time, they were nothing short of spectacular," Marquis said at the time about the Twins. The Angels handled Hunter in likewise fashion, plugging holes in the outfield as injuries to other players began to mount. Scioscia and Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto told Hunter not to worry about the team until his family life was back to normal. "I don't think you can make a general statement on organizations, it just comes down to how each individual organization handles that kind of situation, what their policy is and their protocol," Scioscia said. "Coming through the Dodgers organization when I was playing baseball, if you had a situation that had to be dealt with, they wanted you to feel good about playing baseball. "And if it was that big of distraction that it was going to impact your game, they wanted you to take care of it not only for your well-being, but for the organization's well-being. That's the way we take care of it here." It's not as if Hunter didn't feel the tug of his team as he monitored the Angels from afar. He said he watched at least a dozen of the 14 games he missed. He tried to remain sharp by taking batting practice in his own personal cages with one of his sons throwing to him. If all goes well, he could be back in the lineup against the Yankees on Tuesday night. The Angels, Hunter said, let him do what was most important without hesitation: fulfill the role of a father. "I really want to thank the Angels organization: [owner] Arte Moreno and Jerry Dipoto," he said. "Mike checked on me almost every day. This organization was great to me, man. They allowed me to go home and be with my family in a time of need. If I'm going to call myself the head of the household, I should be there for my family when they need me. "I've sacrificed a lot for baseball, but I'm not sacrificing my family. I love them more than baseball. And I love this game."
Barry M. Bloom is national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.