ARLINGTON, Texas -Twins right fielder Torii Hunter apologized to the team’s fans in the wake of the two-game suspension and undisclosed fine he received Friday for a post-ejection tantrum two days earlier.
“That’s probably the most animated I’ve been,” Hunter said. “When I look back, sometimes I laugh and sometimes I say, ‘What was I thinking about?’ To the fans, I definitely would like to say I’m sorry for my actions, for my emotions. Emotions are never good. You always end up apologizing.”
Hunter, who was ejected along with Twins manager Paul Molitor, said he expected a fine, but did not think he would be suspended after removing and throwing his shin guards, batting gloves and jersey onto the field. Calling the two-game suspension from Major League Baseball “a little harsh,” Hunter announced plans to appeal a suspension for the first time in his 19 big-league seasons.
“At the same time, it’s like, I’m not sorry,” said Hunter, 39. “That’s just my passion. That’s what I do. I know a lot of people don’t understand that. … I love this game. When I feel like it’s getting taken away from me, I’m going to defend it.”
Hunter, then with the Los Angeles Angels, dropped plans to appeal a four-game suspension in August 2010 after plate umpire Ron Kulpa ejected him in Detroit. Hunter threw a bag of baseballs onto the field after being called out on strikes in the eighth inning.
Hunter’s team won that game, but the Twins fell 7-2 Wednesday to complete a three-game series sweep by the Kansas City Royals.
Plate umpire Mark Ripperger, in his first season as a full-time umpire in the majors, ejected Hunter in the bottom of the eighth inning at Target Field. Crew chief Jeff Kellogg and Hunter made contact with each other as the player continued to yell from a distance at Ripperger, and Hunter insisted Friday that he did not initiate that contact with Kellogg.
“From me or from him?” Hunter said when asked about the contact between his left forearm and Kellogg’s hands. “No. Him. No, no, no, no. Think totally different. Think the opposite. Don’t get that on me.”
Hunter, who was informed of his suspension on Friday morning, said Joe Garagiola Jr.’s report for the commissioner’s office did not mention the contact between player and umpire. Garagiola Jr. is senior vice president of standards and on-field operations for Major League Baseball.
Asked if his decision to appeal this time had less to do with his behavior than that of the umpiring crew, Hunter laughed and shook his head.
“That’s a good one,” he said. “I can’t answer that right now.”
When it was suggested that perhaps he wasn’t the only one who might have said something that was out of line, Hunter interjected: “Not just saying, but touching.”
While Hunter, who makes his offseason home in nearby Prosper, Texas, received word of his suspension at the Texas Rangers’ home ballpark, it was at this same venue that a Twins player last incurred a suspension. Former Twins left-hander Scott Diamond was suspended for six games in August 2012 after throwing near the head of Rangers star Josh Hamilton.
That came in the bottom half of the inning after Rangers pitcher Roy Oswalt hit Twins star Joe Mauer on the shoulder.
Former Twins manager Ron Gardenhire was suspended for one game in August 2008 after drop-kicking his hat at the Metrodome and causing a disturbance against the Chicago White Sox that led to some Twins fans flinging caps and baseballs onto the playing surface.
Hunter was not sure when his appeal would be heard, but said he hoped it would be soon.
Molitor expressed support for Hunter again Friday, suggesting veteran players such as Hunter and David Ortiz “have some kind of entitlement from their tenure.”
Asked if he believed Ripperger’s lengthy ejection history as a fill-in umpire since 2011 might prove germane to Hunter’s appeal, Molitor suggested he did not.
“I think the league office is going to protect the umpires for the most part, no matter how long they’ve been there or what their track records are,” he said. “Hopefully, the player’s reputation and his good standing in the game as a pretty good ambassador for your sport, you would like to think they consider those things as well.”
If not for Hunter’s appeal, the suspension would have started Friday in the opener of a three-game series against the surging Rangers.
The Pioneer Press is a media partner with Forum News Service.