Angels right fielder and former Twin Torii Hunter, my favorite ballplayer, calls questions that could get him into trouble "hot tamales." I threw a couple at him on Saturday, along with the usual slo-pitch softballs.
As usual, he carefully chewed the tamales and knocked the softballs out of the park.
Q: You've played for three highly successful managers -- Tom Kelly, Ron Gardenhire and Mike Scioscia. Who's the best?
T: Oh man, I'm still playing, I've got to be careful. That's what we call a hot tamale. Me and TK, we had our disputes, but I think he was pretty smart. Gardy's awesome. We were like friends, me and him and (first base coach) Jerry White. Like best friends.
I grew up with him and always played hard for him. I respect him, and he was a personable manager. Players could go talk to him.
But he could be heated, too. He would curse you out if you didn't play hard.
Mike Scioscia is a brainiac. He manages like he's playing chess. He's very intelligent, knows the game. He'll sit in his office reading the rule book.
Q: Did it hurt to move from center to right field?
T: Yes, because I'm a man, and men have testosterone, and pride.
Q: Who's the best teammate you've ever had?
T: Me and Jacque Jones were best friends. We were like Frick and Frack. We went to dinner together, we hung out together, we had a group, a clique -- me, David Ortiz, LaTroy Hawkins and Jacque. And Eddie Guardado.
I talked to Jacque last week. (Jones is at Rochester, the Twins' Class AAA affiliate.) He's changed. For the better. He's way more mature. He's humbled. I'm excited for him and hopefully he comes up in September and shows his playoff experience and can help these guys out.
Q: How should we view the steroid era?
T: I think we're kind of past it already. You don't hear much about it, unless it's Roger Clemens getting indicted.
It's just like the speed limit. The speed limit is 55, but guess what? Even good people are going to go 65. Right? You always have someone who's going to try to break the rules. We're all human in here, and people forget that.
You're always going to have at least one guy who's going to try to beat the system, because we're such competitors.
Q: Were you ever tempted?
T: No. And nobody ever even approached me. I've heard about it, but I've never seen anybody do them.
Q: What was the best moment of your career?
T: I have to say my last game in Minnesota. When Gardy called me off the field. We were playing the White Sox. The fans gave me a standing ovation, and I saw the tears in the fans' eyes and it made me tear up. I didn't know what to expect.
I tried to do everything I could to get back here and it didn't work out, but at that moment I saw the respect the fans had.
Q: How many more years are you going to play?
T: Between two and four years. Brett Favre style.
Q: What if you retire and three Twins fly to Arkansas?
T: Yeah, I need Mauer and Morneau to fly down there and say, 'Hey, why don't you come back?'
Q: You and Kirby Puckett were comfortable being the face of the franchise and team spokesmen. Should Joe Mauer be more visible as the new franchise player?
T: Wow. Hot tamale. That's a good one. I've been accused of questioning Joe in the past, of calling him soft, when I didn't really mean it that way.
You know, I always say, all of us have different fingerprints. For me, my character is that. I saw Kirby do it, and I already had it in me, so I did the same thing that he did. But it was always in me. I was always funny in school, and Joe was probably always laid-back. He leads by example.
To be that vocal leader, if it's not in you, then there's no chance. It would be out of character for Joe to do what I do.
Q: Best ballpark in baseball?
T: I really liked St. Louis' ballpark, and new Yankee Stadium. But I'm biased. Target Field is it.