Torii Hunter retires with Twins but doesn't 'want to sit out too long'

MINNEAPOLIS -- Torii Hunter has concluded his playing career of 17-plus major league seasons, including more than a decade with the Minnesota Twins.

In a sometimes-emotional speech Thursday, Hunter paid tribute to one of his earliest role models, former Twin Kirby Puckett.

"Watching him carry himself, you had no choice but to be infected," Hunter said at his farewell news conference at Target Field. "He had a great smile. The way he moved about the room and the way he treated people -- everybody -- the same. Whether it's the vendor or I don't care who it was, he treated everybody the same.

"That's something I watched as a youngster. You try to remember that as you get older, knowing these guys are watching you. You try to carry yourself as a professional and do it the right way. Kirby, I know you're looking down, and I want to thank you for being that iron that I needed in my life." The room at Target Field was packed with Twins employees and officials.

Former teammates Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau and Corey Koskie were there, as was Hunter's first manager, Tom Kelly. Hunter wept as Twins general manager Terry Ryan introduced him with a long list of accolades and all the standouts he played with.

"I suspect that every one of these guys would tell you that Torii made them better," Ryan said.

Hunter recalled watching Chicago Cubs games on superstation WGN as a boy, fueling his love for the game. He thanked Kelly for the tough-love management style. He mentioned Puckett and Harmon Killebrew, both Twins Hall of Famers. He praised the energy he gained from Twins fans.

"I'm going to miss that. There's nowhere in this world that you're going to get that elevation," Hunter said.

The 40-year-old has a strong desire to stay in the game, though.

"I don't want to sit out too long. I want to get right back in it," Hunter said.

Hunter has been transitioning out of the dugout, letting his body recover from the grind of 2,372 major league games. He's been watching his three sons play college football and catching up on down time with his wife, Katrina, whom he called his "foundation" during a 20-minute reflection on the people who guided his journey. He was up at 4 a.m. to prepare it.

"Without you," Hunter said to his wife, "I wouldn't have had any success."

From poor kid in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, to first-round draft pick, to struggling minor leaguer, to five-time All-Star with nine Gold Glove awards, Hunter has come a long way. There's still an undiscovered path ahead of him, too.

Hunter said he's already fielded offers from different networks about serving as a television analyst. He has spoken informally with Ryan about a role in the organization and planned to dine with owner Jim Pohlad to further discuss that future.

"Going to make him pay," Hunter said, with one of many familiar quips throughout a 48-minute farewell news conference to match his jersey number with the Twins, the team he was drafted by in 1993, debuted with in 1997 and returned to for one last season in 2015.

Hunter had talks with the Kansas City Royals last winter before signing with the Twins, but he said he had no regrets about missing out on a World Series ring. He expressed his appreciation of being able to play in the postseason eight times. Citing a Bible verse from the book of Proverbs about ironing sharpening iron, Hunter said he was grateful to be able to mentor the young players with the Twins this year during a surprising 83-79 finish that had them in wild-card contention until the second-to-last day of the season.

Coaching? Hunter didn't sound interested in the travel.

He'll no doubt find a future as a tutor of sorts to the next generation of players, however.

"I'm retired from the field, but I'm a baseball guy, man," he said. "That's all I know. I want to be in it."

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.