Notre Dame WR Torii Hunter Jr. joins Irish baseball team
Torii Hunter Jr.’s two-sport dream takes the next step this weekend. Notre Dame announced Friday that the sophomore wide receiver has joined the Irish baseball team.
The son of Minnesota Twins outfielder Torii Hunter joined the Notre Dame baseball team as it traveled to Norman, Okla., for its season-opening series Friday. Hunter has been clear about his wish to play both football and baseball, but hasn’t stepped onto a diamond for a game since his junior season at Prosper (Texas) High School.
He intends to participate in football workouts and practices in the spring.
"We want to make sure he can contribute effectively in both sports," head football coach Brian Kelly said a release from Notre Dame. "If he can do that, let's go help both teams.”
A broken femur suffered during practice for the 2013 U.S. Army All-American Bowl wiped out his senior baseball season and kept him sidelined as a freshman at Notre Dame. He recovered to make his Irish debut on the football field this past fall. He caught seven passes for 65 yards and one touchdown as a reserve wide receiver.
Now, he’ll test his talents with head coach Mik Aoki’s baseball squad.
“Torii wanted to play baseball again, and we had some roster space, so we wanted to see where this could go,” Aoki said in the release. “People will need to have a little bit of patience. This is a kid that, between his focus on football and a catastrophic injury as a senior in high school, hadn't touched a bat in three years prior to the last few weeks. He needs a little bit of time to see where this might be able to lead him."
Hunter hit .393 with six home runs, 27 RBIs and 13 stolen bases in his last full season of baseball in 2012. He admitted to still having the itch to play baseball this past fall.
“I can’t let it go,” Hunter told the Tribune in November. “It’s kind of in my blood. I mean no matter how far I stray away from it, it’s like riding a bike. I can’t like forget how to do it. I can go to the cage right now and just get my rhythm back if I had to. It’s something I still have aspirations to play.”
The Notre Dame baseball program has had success with athletes picking up their gloves in the spring as their second sport. Irish basketball player Pat Connaughton has pitched for the Irish the last three seasons. Former football players Jeff Samardzija, Golden Tate and Evan Sharpley also have taken the field for the Irish baseball team.
Hunter will be the first football player to cross over since Kelly arrived at Notre Dame.
"This is something we wouldn't have considered if not for the fact that Torii is an outstanding student," Kelly said in the Notre Dame release. "Coach Aoki and I have the utmost confidence in Torii to be able to handle his duties in the classroom in addition to his responsibilities to both teams."