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Torii Hunter is Angels' 'Kung Fu' center fielder

Hunter TEMPE, Ariz. -- With veteran pitcher John Lackey signing with the Boston Red Sox this winter, Torii Hunter is the clear-cut leader of this Angels team because of the respect the nine-time Gold Glove Award winner commands on the field and in the clubhouse, and an outgoing personality that endears him to coaches, teammates and the media.

But the center fielder, who arrived in camp after undergoing a physical Monday and will join the team for its first full-squad workout Tuesday, seems a little uncomfortable attaching that "team leader" label to his chest.

"I don't want to say I'm the leader," Hunter said. "Maybe I'm a Shaolin monk."

Shaolin monk? When the laughter among the small group of reporters interviewing Hunter subsided, he was asked where he had heard the term.

"I'd watch it on all those karate movies when I was a kid," Hunter said. "They're the old monks with the long eyebrows and the long mustaches, the ones you train and then they come back and try to kill you later on, like these young guys [in baseball]. You train them, and they try to get you out of the game after a while." 

In his third year with the Angels after signing a five-year, $90-million contract before the 2008 season, Hunter, 34, has no plans to change his leadership style.

"You lead by example," he said. "I don't go around saying, 'I'm the leader of the ballclub, you have to do this,' but if these guys come to me and ask for council, yeah, I can give it to them. I've been there, done that. I've had the highs and lows, you name it. I can help position players, pitchers. But I can't go around saying, 'I'm the leader of the clubhouse, take your shoes off!' That's not my style."

-- Mike DiGiovanna

Photo: Torii Hunter, center, leaps into his teammates arms after hitting a walk-off grand slam against the Cleveland Indians on April 7, 2008. Credit: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times

 
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