For the past five seasons, when the mood in the Angels clubhouse needed to be lightened, there was Torii Hunter.
When a young player needed some guidance, there was Torii Hunter.
When something needed to be said to the group, there was Torii Hunter.
Now that the Angels cut ties with Hunter and he signed with the Detroit Tigers, one of the evolving stories during spring training is how the team can replace what Hunter brought to the clubhouse.
"I don't think anybody can fill those shoes," Jered Weaver said. "There are not too many people in the league like Torii Hunter. He's bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. He comes in with a great mindset."
Weaver strained to remember the last time he was in an Angels clubhouse without Hunter, back in 2007: "We had guys like Garret Anderson, but I think Torii took it to another level every day. He took that role and ran with it. Hopefully somebody can fill those shoes, but it will be pretty tough."
Even in the first week of spring training, the clubhouse was noticeably different to Mark Trumbo.
"It's definitely quieter here without him," he said. "He brought a lot to the table. There's no doubt about that. He was genuine."
Hunter was particularly important in the development of the young players who came up under his watch, and his impact was perhaps most noticeable on Mike Trout. After Hunter signed with the Tigers, Trout's mother publicly tweeted a thank you to Hunter.
"We definitely miss him," Trout said. "You can't really replace him. He's one of those guys that brings life to the clubhouse. He's an awesome guy to hang out with."
While clubhouse chemistry and leadership are sometimes thought to be overrated, or just a media creation, talking to the Angels leaves little doubt they feel the need for chemistry. And they'll have to look to new people to help foster it.
Angels hunting for someone to fill Torii's shoes
Orange County Register | Feb 20