ANAHEIM—Torii Hunter Jr., the son of the five-time all-star and nine-time Gold Glove Award winner, announced that he will end his Notre Dame football career and begin playing minor league baseball in 2017, a potential boon to a thin Angels farm system.
The Angels selected Hunter, 21, in the 23rd round of the 2016 draft, fully expecting him to play two more seasons of college football, but “after long consideration and prayer,” Hunter said in a statement, “I’ve decided not to pursue a fifth year at Notre Dame, but rather follow a dream of playing professional baseball.”
A wide receiver, Hunter caught 38 passes for 531 yards and three touchdowns during an injury-plagued junior season in which the Irish went a disappointing 4-8.
Hunter, an outfielder, played baseball sparingly at Notre Dame, hitting .182 in 11 at-bats and being used mostly as a pinch-runner in 18 games. He hasn’t played a full season of baseball since 2012, when he hit .393 with six homers and 13 stolen bases as a junior at Prosper (Texas) High.
A broken femur, suffered during a workout for the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio in January 2013, sidelined him for two full baseball seasons.
But the Angels thought highly enough of the 6-foot-2, 180-pound Hunter’s raw tools and athletic ability to use a late-round pick on him, and they were rewarded with Hunter’s decision to forego a possible NFL career.
“We were willing to take a chance because it’s hard to turn those kinds of tools away,” former scouting director Ric Wilson said last June. “He can run. He’s got some power. He’s got some strength to him. He’s very, very athletic. We’ll roll the dice, see what we’ve got.”
Hunter, who needs to strengthen his throwing arm and shorten his swing, will remain in extended spring training in April and May and join Rookie-level Orem in June.
• The Angels signed 26-year-old lefthander John Lamb to a minor league deal. He started 24 big league games for the Reds over the past two years, but he had two back surgeries in the past year and may not be ready for Opening Day.