Feb. 13, 2015
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – University of Notre Dame sophomore wide receiver Torii Hunter Jr. has joined the Irish baseball team for the spring season, head coach Mik Aoki announced before the team’s opening weekend of the 2015 season.
Hunter Jr., who plays in the outfield and is the son of 18-year Major League Baseball veteran Torii Hunter, was a talented player in high school. Hunter Jr. batted .393 with six home runs, 27 RBI and 13 stolen bases during his junior campaign in 2012, which was his last competitive season on the diamond.
“Torii wanted to play baseball again, and we had some roster space, so we wanted to see where this could go,” said Aoki. “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.”
“This is something we wouldn’t have considered if not for the fact that Torii is an outstanding student,” said Notre Dame head football coach Brian Kelly. “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.”
The Prosper, Texas native always had the intention of playing baseball in college, but Hunter Jr. suffered a broken femur at the end of his senior football campaign, which forced him to miss his senior baseball season. His recovery also prevented him from participating in either football or baseball as a freshman at Notre Dame.
“Growing up, I played a lot of baseball because of who my dad is,” said Hunter Jr. “I wanted to continue it after high school even though I received a football scholarship.
“I’ll be at every football workout possible. I’m always putting in the work to be a better football player, and will now do the same as a baseball player.”
Hunter, who recorded seven receptions for 65 yards and a touchdown this past fall, joins a talented outfield that returns two starters and eight student-athletes who spent some time roaming the position in 2014.
“Even when we watched him in high school, he was a kid that could go get the ball in the outfield,” said Aoki. “I think he could provide game-changing type speed on the bases in terms of looking to steal, going first to third, first to home, that sort of stuff.”
Despite joining the baseball team, Hunter Jr. will continue to take part in football-related activities throughout the spring.
“We want to make sure he can contribute effectively in both sports,” said Kelly. “If he can do that, let’s go help both teams. In coach Aoki’s program, you have to be an elite player, and to play Notre Dame football; you certainly have to be an elite player.
“I’m no expert in baseball, but I would think Torii could certainly field. He’s someone that has an ability to track the ball very well. He is very fluid as an athlete and can really run.”
Hunter Jr. becomes just the latest in a long line of standout student-athletes to play both sports. He joins the likes of Jeff Samardzija, Golden Tate and Evan Sharpley, all of whom ultimately played professionally in either football or baseball.
For the last three seasons, Notre Dame men’s basketball standout Pat Connaughton was a talented right-handed pitcher for the Irish before being drafted in the fourth round of the 2014 MLB Draft by the Baltimore Orioles.
Hunter Jr. and his Irish teammates are in Norman, Oklahoma this weekend for the start of their season. Notre Dame plays SIU-Edwardsville at 2 p.m. ET (1 p.m. CT) Friday, before opening up a three-game set with Oklahoma at 6 p.m. ET (5 p.m. CT).
For more information on the Irish baseball team, give them a follow on Facebook (/NDBaseball), Twitter (@NDBaseball) and Instagram (notredamebaseball).
–Russell Dorn, Assistant Media Relations Director