Torii Hunter returns to Angels after son's arrest

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Torii Hunter returns to Angels after son's arrest

From Comcast SportsNet
ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) -- Torii Hunter was blindsided by the news his teenage son had been arrested. On the flight back home to Texas two weeks ago, he went through a litany of emotions -- confusion, guilt, fear. The Los Angeles Angels' right fielder and clubhouse leader had to be a dad, shelving his high-paying job on the West Coast for more important duties. He's ready to return to baseball, but only because he's confident his son will be all right. "I've sacrificed a lot for baseball, but I'm not sacrificing my family," Hunter said. "I love them more than baseball, and I love this game." Hunter rejoined the Los Angeles Angels on Monday after a 14-game absence. The veteran outfielder didn't come off the Angels' restricted list before they opened a three-game series with the New York Yankees, but Hunter thinks he'll be ready to play soon. Hunter left the Angels on May 14, a few hours after 17-year-old Darius McClinton-Hunter was arrested in a sexual assault case in Prosper, Texas, the upscale Dallas suburb where the Hunter family lives. Hunter is a long-distance father for most of the year. His wife stays with their three teenage sons, Darius, Torii Jr., and Monshadrik "Money" Hunter, who are finishing their junior years at Prosper High. All three are expected to be Division I football prospects. On that flight home, Hunter wondered about his own culpability in his son's trouble. He has tried to be an attentive father with a disciplinarian streak, saying he doesn't hesitate to "whoop" his kids, but just isn't around them for much of the year. "I thought, man, I wish I could have been here, not just four months (in the winter)," Hunter said. "I wish I could be there 12 months and be in their lives, and none of this would happen, and this and that. I didn't know what was going on. I didn't know the stories, anything like that. It took me a couple of days to get the story. Once we got the truth to come out, I felt better about it." Although Hunter tried to restrain himself from discussing the legal aspects of his son's case while sitting in the Angels' dugout, the loquacious outfielder couldn't resist declaring that much about the police's investigation doesn't add up. For example, Prosper police said its five arrests followed a monthlong investigation, but Hunter claims the alleged assault happened only a week before his son's detainment. "Can't really talk about much," Hunter said. "I'm not a no-commenter. You know I want to tell you everything, but I can't do it. I've got to let the justice system play its part, and let my attorneys do what they have to do, and hopefully this thing gets dropped, but we're ready to go to court no matter what. "I don't wish this on any father out there," he added. "I know a lot of fathers have been through it, but I don't wish this on anybody, to see your son go through this. All the embarrassment, all the lies that are out there -- don't always believe what you read, because it's not even close. But it's a lot better." Hunter spent the last two weeks with his family, making time almost every day to watch the Angels on television. Los Angeles is 9-5 without Hunter, climbing out of last place heading into a key homestand against the Yankees and the AL West-leading Texas Rangers. The Angels didn't hesitate to allow Hunter to take an indefinite leave. General manager Jerry Dipoto and manager Mike Scioscia checked in with the veteran almost daily during his absence. "That decision wasn't tough at all," Scioscia said. "We all love this game and understand the sense of duty you have to this game, but there's things you have to handle with your family." Even when outfielders Vernon Wells and Ryan Langerhans got hurt during Hunter's absence, the Angels didn't rush him back. Hunter thought about rushing himself when Langerhans ran into an outfield wall in San Diego, but his wife wouldn't allow it. Hunter took his son to the movies last weekend and was pleased to see Darius' first smiles in nearly two weeks when they saw "The Avengers." McClinton-Hunter has been recruited as a receiver by several schools, and the elder Hunter said Utah and Texas Tech already have contacted the family to say they're still interested in Darius. Torii Hunter is prepared to return to Texas if his son's case proceeds through the justice system, but he's eager to get back to his game as well. "They all seemed like they were a lot better," Hunter said. "My wife can handle the situation. My attorneys can handle the situation. My three boys, they're very upbeat. We were talking a lot. Through all this stuff, my family and I, we got a little closer."

Wake-up Call: Cubs surge into first place; White Sox continue slide

Wake-up Call: Cubs surge into first place; White Sox continue slide

Here are some of Sunday's top stories in Chicago sports:

Willson Contreras is playing his butt off right now for first-place Cubs

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Bears training camp preview: 3 burning questions for coaching staff

White Sox: The big-picture reasoning behind Rick Renteria and bunting

Jose Quintana reveling in first place vibes after 'overexcited' home Cubs debut

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33 Days to Kickoff: Westmont

Willson Contreras is playing his butt off right now for first-place Cubs

Willson Contreras is playing his butt off right now for first-place Cubs

This really is becoming Willson Contreras' team.

The dude is absolutely on fire right now and has almost singlehandedly lifted the Cubs back into first place.

Since the All-Star Break, Contreras has crushed four homers and three doubles while driving in 11 runs in just eight games. 

The Cubs have won seven of those games, including Sunday night when Contreras' two-run shot in the sixth inning turned out to be the game-winner that pushed the Cubs into a first-place tie with the Milwaukee Brewers. (The Cubs also won the only game Contreras hasn't started since the Break.)

In the span of nine games, the Cubs have already erased the 5.5 game deficit they had in the National League Central entering the midseason break.

"He's just playing his butt off, literally, right now," Joe Maddon said. "Everything he's doing is pretty darn good. He plays with enthusiasm, also. You gotta feel that in the stands.

"There's some times he might get over-enthusiastic. I prefer toning people down as opposed to pumping them up all the time. He's doing everything. He's hitting fourth, he's catching, he's handling a really good pitching staff, he's throwing people out, he's blocking the ball really well and he's hitting homers, so God bless him."

Contreras' offense has been amazing, but Maddon credits the young catcher's block on a Wade Davis pitch in the dirt last week in Atlanta with helping to save the season. That play helped ensure a victory by not permitting the tying run to score from third base as the Cubs rattled off six straight wins to start the second half of 2017.

It's at the point now where Maddon cannot rationally find ways to get Contreras out of the lineup, even though the veteran manager is a huge proponent of rest and wants nothing more than to keep his players healthy and playing at a high level late in the season and into the playoffs.

Contreras is like the Energizer Bunny out there, hopping all around behind the plate to block balls, throwing guys out, pumping his chest, screaming obscenities at his first base coach after home runs. He even plays long toss (from the warning track in left-centerfield to about the spot the second baseman normally plays) before games with catching coach Mike Borzello.

The 25-year-old just does not turn down for anything when he's at the ballpark.

So does he ever get weary?

"I do get tired, but when I get home," he said. "When I'm here, I'm never tired. This is my job, this is what I love and you're gonna see me like that all throughout my career."

Contreras credits the Cubs coaching staff with helping him make the mental adjustments that has him in the conversation as one of the best catchers in baseball.

"He's growing up," Anthony Rizzo said. "He's really taking control behind the plate, which is nice. His at-bats just keep getting better and better and it's really fun to watch."

Contreras is on pace for 25 homers and 87 RBI, second only to Kansas City's Salvador Perez in both categories among catchers.

"He definitely has the abilities to be one of the elite catchers," Maddon said. "You gotta consider him one of the elite catchers in the National League already. Because he just does everything so well.

"The biggest next hurdle is just — without pulling him in too much — controlling his emotions a tad more without losing that enthusiasm that he has. Really understanding the game and calling the game and working his pitchers. 

"Mike Borzello does a great job with him. He started out this year and wasn't so good — missing his pitches, missing fastballs, fouling stuff off. But he stayed with it and now you see what he's capable of doing. He is really good right now and he's gonna get better."