'Selfless' Hunter soaking up return trip to ASG
Part of All-Star lore, outfielder determined to win World Series
NEW YORK -- Truth be told, Torii Hunter wasn't sure he was going to get back here.
He had three All-Star selections in a four-year stretch from 2007-10, then had slow starts and fast finishes the past two years that kept him out. His two-year deal with Detroit was intended to give him one more good chance at a World Series, not a Midsummer Classic.
The next generation of American League All-Star outfielders was moving in, including ex-teammate Mike Trout. Graybeards like Hunter were moving out. He had gone from star player to a legend in a supporting role.
"I always say that I'm not a selfish player anymore to put up big numbers," he said. "I'm more of a selfless player that wants to win a World Series, so I'll do whatever it takes to get on base for Miguel [Cabrera] or set the table for Miguel and Prince [Fielder] and Victor [Martinez] to eat. It's more of a selfless act for me. If I get to the All-Star Game, that's fine, but to get to a World Series is way better than this."
His fellow players looked at Hunter's start this year and felt otherwise. Thus, while Cabrera, Fielder and Max Scherzer led a star-studded Tigers contingent at the All-Star festivities, there sat Hunter, soaking it all in.
"I definitely think it's special right now because I'm healthy, I look good, I feel good and I'm playing great baseball," Hunter said. "And I'm also a lot smarter as a player."
He has been around these enough that he can talk about the tie game in 2002 in Milwaukee from experience. It was his first All-Star Game, and it's the only one he has started. It's also the one where his catch to rob Barry Bonds created one of the lasting highlights in All-Star history.
"That was a long time ago," Hunter said. "It's my fault now that we have to play for something. That's what I get all the time."
He was the young punk then, robbing the aging superstar. The tables, he admits, have now turned.
"A young Torii Hunter jumps up and takes the ball away from one of the best hitters in the game with everybody watching," Hunter said. "You can't beat that, and I'm looking to seeing someone like [Baltmore's Manny] Machado or Scherzer, these guys in their first All-Star Game, to do something special and something they'll never forget."
Hunter has a chance to enjoy the All-Star Game before he turns 38 years old on Thursday. He's doing his best to use fuzzy math. His .315 average at the break -- the best first-half average of his 16-year career -- with 24 doubles, seven home runs and 44 RBIs, required no such fudging.
"I'll be 28 on Thursday," Hunter said with a wry smile, "but I'm going to take it in. You just don't know, because the older you get, you don't know if you're going to make it. I'm going to soak all of this in, I'm going to have a good time. I'm going to talk to some of the guys, get to know them, because one day I'm going to have to be on TV and talk about these guys and how they stink and how good I was.
"It's going to be a lot of fun for me personally. I'm just going to soak it in and enjoy it."
Hunter wasn't the only one soaking it in. Jhonny Peralta is 31 and only has one previous All-Star selection to his credit, but he had a point to prove after his numbers dropped from a 2011 All-Star to a player whose starting job in Detroit seemingly was at risk in the offseason.
He, too, was enjoying his trip to New York.
"It's special for me to be here for the second time," Peralta said. "It's a lot of competition at shortstop. I feel proud to be here right now and enjoy it with all the guys."
Like Hunter, Peralta was selected on the players' ballot. His .303 average and .808 OPS arguably gave him a chance to beat out Baltimore's J.J. Hardy for the starting nod, but Hardy ran away with the fan vote.
The final phase of All-Star Game voting will again have fans participating in the official voting for the Ted Williams All-Star Game Most Valuable Player Award presented by Chevrolet. During the Midsummer Classic, fans will vote exclusively online at MLB.com via the 2013 All-Star Game MLB.com MVP Vote, and their voice will represent 20 percent of the official vote determining the recipient of the Arch Ward Trophy.
The 2013 All-Star Game will be played at Citi Field on Tuesday. Come to MLB.com for extensive online coverage of the All-Star Week festivities.
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