CEDAR RAPIDS — Torii Hunter had a good seat to watch his son produce his best performance of the season.
Interestingly, the former Major League star and current Baseball Operations Special Assistant for the Minnesota Twins was stationed in the Cedar Rapids dugout as Torii Hunter Jr. helped the Burlington Bees batter Kernels pitchers.
Hunter Jr. recorded his first multi-hit game of the season, including his second professional home run, and drove in four runs to help the Bees drop the Kernels, 13-5, in Midwest League action Monday at Memorial Stadium.
“It’s cool,” Hunter Sr. said. “He’s my son. I love when he’s doing well, but at the same time I’m very competitive. He knows that and I told him today that he wasn’t going to get a hit.”
The elder Hunter played nearly two decades for the Twins, Los Angeles Angels and Detroit Tigers. The nine-time Gold Glove winner and five-time All-Star spent the bulk of his career with Minnesota, starting in 1997 and returning to the club for a 12th season to close his career in 2015.
He is expected to be here for the duration of the series with Burlington.
“It was awesome, because this is his first time seeing me hit a home run, I think, ever,” Hunter Jr. said about his father being in attendance. “Normally he was playing during my season.
“It was awesome to have him here. It sucks to see him on the other side.”
The 22-year-old left fielder for the Bees was a 23rd-round draft pick for the Los Angeles Angels in 2016. He has endured some hitting woes this season, managing just three hits in his last 25 at-bats before Monday and entering the game with a .149 batting average.
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Hunter Sr. arrived in Burlington Sunday, making part of the nightcap of a doubleheader. The pair met up and father shared some of his baseball knowledge with son.
“We were able to hang out after the game (Sunday),” Hunter Jr. said. “We talked and talked mindset and different things like that because I had been struggling.
“It definitely helped out.”
Hunter Jr. delivered an RBI single in the fifth inning, serving as the game-winning run. Hunter Sr. was in competitor mode, waiting to be a proud father until after the game.
“When he got his first hit, I was like ‘BOO!’ “ Hunter Sr. said. “He kind of looked at me with that ‘Dad, shut up’ face.”
Hunter Jr. provided another jolt an inning later, belting a two-run homer over the left-field wall and extending Burlington’s lead to 9-5. He didn’t realize he got all of it and zipped around the bases, leaving a short distance for any home run trot.
“If you look at the video, I was probably almost on third by the time it went out,” said Hunter Jr., who added a sacrifice fly in the eighth to drive in the final run. “It was a pretty high one. I’m pretty sure my bat was broken. I don’t know what happened I was just trying to run as fast as I could and help my team.”
Hunter Sr. hit 353 career home runs in the Majors, including a season-high 31 in 2006. He realized his son hit it well, but jokingly said it may have had some assistance.
“It sounded loud,” Hunter Sr. said. “He hit it. I think it was wind-aided.
“All-in-all, a good day for him (and) good at-bats.”
The Bees (8-7) smacked 16 hits, including 13 in the first six innings.
Akil Baddoo had four hits to lead Cedar Rapids (7-4). Alex Kirilloff had three hits, including a three-run home run in the third, tying the game at three apiece. Shane Carrier added two hits for the Kernels.
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