12/11/2002 12:00 pm ET
Hunter 'grabs' Play of the Year
All-Star Game catch earns inaugural fan honors
By Mark Sheldon / MLB.com
Hunter robs Bonds:
56K | 300K
Making a spectacular catch has become just another day at the office for Twins center fielder Torii Hunter. But not necessarily for the fans that get to watch him play.
Hunter's greatest play of 2002, and perhaps his career, didn't happen at just any office -- er, ballpark. It also didn't come during just any game -- it came during the All-Star Game against one of baseball's greatest players.
With a giant leap at the right-center field fence at Milwaukee's Miller Park on July 9, Hunter robbed the Giants' Barry Bonds of what would have been a sure home run. It was a moment that will remain part of the All-Star Game's and Hunter's legacy.
"I'll be able to tell my grandkids I robbed a Hall of Famer," Hunter said after the game. "To me, that's No. 1. That's the best catch I've had because of where it happened. I grew up in Arkansas and the All-Star Game is one [game] everybody got to watch on TV. To make a catch against a Hall of Famer on national TV, this is one I'll always remember."
Fans must still be talking about the play, because they voted Hunter's catch as the Play of the Year in MLB.com's inaugural "This Year in Baseball Awards."
Since the award debuted Nov. 7, more than 300,000 votes were cast at MLB.com for the six inaugural awards, which included Play of the Year, Blooper of the Year, Setup Man of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, Pitcher of the Year and Player of the Year. The awards were created to allow fans to have the final say on the top moments and players from the 2002 baseball season.
Among the finalists for Play of the Year were two players who burned the Twins -- the Yankees' Jason Giambi and the Athletics' Miguel Tejada. New York was down by three runs when Giambi hit a 14th-inning grand slam to defeat Minnesota May 10. On Sept. 1, Tejada's three-run homer in the bottom of the ninth gave Oakland its 18th consecutive win.
The award is one of many honors Hunter has earned this season. A two-time Gold Glove winner in 2001-02, Hunter was also voted in by fans as a starter for the American League in his first All-Star Game.
It didn't take long for Hunter to make his lasting impression at the Midsummer Classic. With two outs in the first inning of a scoreless tie, Bonds connected with a booming shot to right-center field. Hustling at full speed from center field, Hunter ran out of room at the warning track and made a jump. He stretched his glove several inches above the fence and was able to snare the ball as it was about to sail over for a home run.
The crowd let out a shout of stunned disbelief when they saw the out was made. Bonds had already rounded first base and smiled with equal amazement. He greeted his robber as he trotted back to the dugout by picking up Hunter at the edge of the infield and hoisting him on his shoulder.
"I think everybody was speechless," Diamondbacks pitcher Curt Schilling said after the game. "It's always awesome in an All-Star Game to see an All-Star do what got him there. Those are the moments people will never forget."
Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com and can be reached at
email@example.com. This report was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.