A good guy, with a ghost

A recent ESPN.com headline caught my attention:

Torii Hunter one of the good guys

Now, as I may have mentioned a time or two, I’m a devoted fan of the Texas Rangers. As such, I don’t exactly root for Hunter, an All-Star outfielder for the rival Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. (I did like the movie.)

But I enjoy stories that go beyond the numbers in baseball, so I found the top of the ESPN feature on Hunter quite promising:

If Torii Hunter is not the friendliest, best-liked and most quotable player in the major leagues, he’s certainly in the starting lineup and likely batting no lower than cleanup.

“I think that’s about as safe a statement as you can make,” Angels outfielder Vernon Wells replied when asked if Hunter is the game’s friendliest player. “He’s one of those people who is legitimately kind to everyone, no matter who it is. No matter if it’s a random person working at the stadium or the best player in the game, he’s the same person. He always has time to talk to people and get to know them on a different level. It’s impressive to watch.

“He could run for mayor in Orange County and do anything he wanted to. The same in Minnesota — everywhere he goes. He’s loved everywhere. You give him enough time to get out and greet people and get them to know his personality, he could run for any position anywhere.”

At 1,400-plus words, it’s a fairly well-developed piece that offers behind-the-scenes insight into what makes Hunter the way he is.

For instance, there’s this:

Hunter says he came by this personality from two sources: his grandmother, Edna Cobbs, and his mother, Shirley (who still teaches grade school in Pine Bluff, Ark.). “My grandmother was the type of woman who always smiled and said treat people like you want to be treated and life is so much easier. My mom is the same way.”

Now, “treat people like you want to be treated” almost sounds like the Golden Rule, as advocated by Jesus Christ (see Matthew 7:12 and Luke 6:31).

As I read the ESPN piece, I kept wondering if faith might play a role in how Hunter approaches his baseball career. But like a 250-pound slugger missing a fastball thrown right down the middle, this piece whiffs on that key question, leaving a big, giant ghost.

I did not have to try hard to solve the mystery. I Googled “Torii Hunter” and “faith” and found a recent Beliefnet interview with Hunter on “how his faith helps him set a good example.”

For example, what circumstances led to his relationship with Christ?

I was raised in the church by my grandmother who made sure we went to Sunday School, read the Bible and went to church every Sunday. Every night we read Bible stories before we went to bed. My mother also made sure we stayed involved in the church and the things of God. My relationship with Christ came about through that and the influences of my mother and grandmother helped my faith to grow.

And what Hunter wants others to learn from his example:

I want them to know that I try to walk like Christ in my life. If I strike out, I don’t curse, or throw my bat or hit things back in the dugout, I try to quietly just put my helmet back. I may be very upset but I try to control myself. Whether I’m down or whether things are great, I try to stay the same person all the time. I want my teammates to see that I’m following Christ. But, I’m also human, so there are times I slip and make mistakes but I know Christ forgives me.

Hmmmmm, it certainly appears — talking to you, ESPN — that Hunter is “one of the good guys” for a reason.

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About Bobby Ross Jr.

Bobby Ross Jr. is an award-winning reporter and editor with a quarter-century of professional experience. A former religion editor for The Oklahoman and religion writer for The Associated Press, Ross serves as chief correspondent for the The Christian Chronicle. He has reported from 47 states and 11 countries and was honored as the Religion Newswriters Association's 2013 Magazine Reporter of the Year.

  • http://paulaustin.wordpress.com Paul

    Good piece. Also, would you guys tackle the recent two-part CNN series on Anderson Cooper on parents who spank their kids? It was pretty outrageously biased. They were shocked to find that parents would ever do such a thing.

  • http://getreligion.org Bobby

    Thanks, Paul. Do you have a link on the CNN series?

  • http://paulaustin.wordpress.com Paul
  • http://www.biblebeltblogger.com Frank Lockwood

    Hey, Bobby. We did a story on Torii Hunter’s faith in 2009 titled
    “Humble Angel: Arkansas ballplayer Torii Hunter is a major-league nice guy”

    Here’s the top:

    ANAHEIM, Calif. — Thirty-four year old Torii Hunter is an All Star now, a Golden Glove winner, a Los Angeles Angels fan favorite, a future Hall of Fame candidate, a multimillionaire.

    But the Bible-savvy Pine Bluff native took a slow path to the Promised Land. He wandered for six years through the minor league wilderness of Fort Wayne, Ind.; Fort Myers, Fla.; Hardware City [aka New Britain], Conn.; and Salt Lake City. And he doubted, sometimes, that he’d ever make it to Big League glory.

    “I wanted to make it to the Major Leagues so bad. I’m 17 and 18 and 19 [years old] going through the minor league system and I almost quit,” he recalls. “So my mom told me to read Psalm 27.”

    It’s a short chapter — 14 verses of pure encouragement.

    The psalm starts with a bang: “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?”

    It finishes with a flourish, Hunter notes. “At the end, it says, ‘Be patient and wait. Be courageous and wait patiently for the Lord.’”

    Written by an Israelite perhaps 3,000 years ago, passed along by Shirley Hunter of Pine Bluff, the closing words of Psalm 27 inspired Torii Hunter so much that he added them to his wardrobe back in the 1990s.

    “I wrote that [verse] in my hat,” he said, standing in front of his locker before a July game against the New York Yankees. “Every day, I took my hat off in the outfield or whatever and I’d look and I’d read it and put it back on.”
    Patience became a priority for the center fielder.

    “It wasn’t just getting to the majors. Be patient about everything, not just baseball,” he said. …

  • http://getreligion.org Bobby

    Thanks for the link, Paul.

    Frank, looks like the makings of a real nice story there. Would love to read it all, that Democrat-Gazette paywall be darned.

  • http://getreligion.org Bobby

    That does help clear up one question I had, though. I wondered if perhaps Hunter was less likely to bring up or discuss his faith with a secular outlet and if that might be why ESPN didn’t include it. But it sure looks like he’s real open about discussing it, which makes it an even more glaring omission by ESPN.

  • Grumpy


    The CNN piece was on the torture and murder of a child, and the rather clear influence of a controversial book. It was not about “spanking” in general.

    As we see from Torii Hunter story and the CNN piece, religion can have many influences.

  • Jerry


    Now, “treat people like you want to be treated” almost sounds like the Golden Rule, as advocated by Jesus Christ

    As well as the other major religions http://www.compassdistributors.ca/topics/golden.htm

  • MJBubba

    nit: Jerry, the article you linked to shows that the quoted phrase is more nearly a paraphrase of the Golden Rule of Jesus than of the comparative golden rules of the other religions.