The biggest reason Pine Bluff native Torii Hunter never played for his beloved Razorbacks is that he wanted to get a head start on his professional baseball career.
Going pro straight out of Pine Bluff High proved to be the right choice for Hunter, who played in the MLB from 1997-2015 and made five All-Star teams.
But one regret is that he never won a World Series during that distinguished career.
If, however, Hunter had joined his friend David Ortiz in Boston, then he almost certainly would have won a World Series with the Red Sox in 2013.
Ortiz once tried to recruit Hunter to play for the Red Sox, but verbal abuse from Red Sox fans kept the nine-time Gold Glove winner from ever signing in Boston.
Instead, Hunter finished out his career in Detroit and Minnesota, during which time he donated $100,000 to the University of Arkansas to be used for the construction of an indoor practice facility for the Razorbacks’ baseball and track & field programs.
Hunter has regularly appeared at Hogs games through his career:
This week, on ESPN’s Golic and Wingo, Hunter shared specifics about how bad the city of Boston and Red Sox fans were were during his time in the pros.
“I’ve been called the N-word in Boston 100 times, and I said something about it,” he said. (I didn‘t speak up because people would say) ‘Oh, he’s just a militant, he’s lying, this didn’t happen.’ No, it happened. All the time. From little kids. And grown-ups right next to them didn’t say anything.”
“So I had a no-trade clause in everything I had not to go to Boston. Not because of all the people, not because of the teammates, not because of the front office. Because if you’re doing that and it’s allowed amongst the people, I don’t want to be there. And that’s why I had a no-trade clause to Boston. Every contract I’ve ever had.”
“And I always wanted to play for them. It sucks.”
Listen below to Hunter talk more about his pro baseball career and his reaction to seeing George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.
“I found myself up at 3 in the morning the next day, crying. Like, please stop. Please stop killing my people.”
And what about the phrase “All Lives Matter?”
As a metaphor, imagine all the houses in your neighborhood. “All those houses matter, but when one is burning — with family members in it — you’ve got to focus and go and save [them] and put the fires out,” Hunter said.
“That’s what’s going on with our race.”
Hunter talks about his ties to the University of Arkansas and UAPB during a game between the two baseball programs:
“I bleed Arkansas, period. I’m a Razorback, I signed with these guys in 1993. Norm Debriyn is one of the guys who encouraged me to come here and my wife graduated from here. So Razorbacks is all up in me.”
Hunter was not the greatest athlete in his graduating class.
That title belonged to his good friend Basil Shabazz, a tri-sport prep superstar and one of the most legendary names in Arkansas sports history.
Read more about him here:
And here’s a nice pic of what Torii Hunter would have looked like as Hog:
What if…— SEC Baseball (@SECbaseball) April 4, 2020
Torii Hunter made it to Arkansas pic.twitter.com/JeJtAZ1HvV