About five minutes before the Los Angeles Angels made their 23rd selection in the Major League Baseball Draft, a phone call was made to a former player from a new General Manager. On one end of the line, Billy Eppler, one the other end, Torii Hunter.
The call came in and on MLB Network, Hunter pronounced the words proudly.
"Hi, this is former Angel, Torii Hunter. With the 23rd round selection, the Los Angeles Angels select redraft I.D. 4830, Torii Hunter Jr., from the University of Notre Dame."
In an instant, there was a new Torii Hunter in the Angels' system, this time with a "Jr." at the end of the title. The same young man who was around the clubhouse when his dad was a star outfielder for the Halos.
"I'm excited," said Mike Scioscia with a smile. "[He's] a great kid, he's a great athlete, and I know as good a football player he is, he loves baseball."
The biggest question is whether he loves it enough to turn down an opportunity to become a professional football player, which has been his calling card to the moment. As a secondary receiver option for the Fighting Irish this past season, Hunter caught 28 passes for 363 yards and two touchdowns. On the baseball field, Hunter went 2-for-11.
Despite the lackadaisical statistics on the diamond, Hunter does have an outstanding tool set, which did appear in the numbers. Hunter stole two bases on two attempts, and reached base in four of 13 plate appearances. On the base paths, Hunter found his way around nine times, either as a pinch runner or with his doing.
"It's hard to turn those tools away," said Angels Director of Scouting, Ric Wilson. "He can run, he's got some strength to him, he's very, very athletic. We'll roll the dice, see what we got. It's hard to go wrong when you take athletes."
Wilson noted Hunter is "very" signable, and if he does so, he'll be given the option to return to Notre Dame for a senior season of football if he desires.
"I think we're working through it. Not sure exactly how it's all going to go down, but we'll figure something out."
So suddenly a guy who hit .182 as a junior in college and caught for 363 yards on the football field suddenly becomes of interest from a Major League Baseball team, and not just for his name sake.
"He didn't have a whole lot of at bats, but [our scouting staff] happened to see some at bats down there and liked it. He saw some bat speed, he saw some strength in the swing and that kinda got us [interested]... Then you get him at the workout, in front of our eyes, and we see the athleticism and that stuff and things start evolving. That's how we ended up taking him."
Hunter told the Angels his desire is to become a baseball player. Now, he has that opportunity. Taking long bus rides, working out with professional coaches, day games, night games, games every day instead of every seven. It will a long trek for young Torii Hunter, Jr., but it could be well worth it.