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Saturday, June 4, 2011
Torii Hunter deals with an 'infestation' of Yankees fans

By Mark Saxon

ANAHEIM -- Angels right fielder Torii Hunter was running about as fast as he can, tracking Robinson Cano's deep drive and expecting a collision with the wall any second.

When half the wall wasn't there, Hunter got worse than a collision. He got flipped.

Hunter's legs slammed into the low wall in right field and he jackknifed into the stands, all 225 pounds landing on a guy wearing a gray shirt in the front row. It's about then, with the pain of the collision and the aggravation of not reaching the ball just sinking in, that Hunter heard this:

"Get off my friend!"

"It was a Yankee fan," Hunter said.

Saturday was that kind of evening for the Angels, who were frustrated flailing at CC Sabathia's changeup, and again disappointed that their stadium became Yankee Stadium West. Jered Weaver made a reference to it being "half Yankees fans and half Angels fans," Friday. Hunter called it an "infestation," after Saturday's game.

The large, vocal contingent of Yankees fans is nothing new at Angel Stadium, but as the Angels enjoyed success on the field and at the gate in recent seasons, the balance had started to tip a bit more toward the home crowd. It has felt like the old days the past two nights. Hunter saw the same thing for years in Minnesota. It happens in Oakland, Seattle, Texas and most other stadiums in the American League, as well.

"They infest everywhere. Every stadium is going to be infested with Yankees fans," Hunter said. "No mosquito repellent, nothing works on them."

Those in the crowd rooting for the Angels seemed to appreciate Hunter's effort. Pitcher Ervin Santana high-fived him in the dugout though the result was a home run. The Angels would lose by the margin of Cano's solo homer, by a score of 3-2.

Though he's batting just .235 and has struggled with runners on base, Hunter's intensity and effort haven't flagged. Like Derek Jeter, who wound up with a nasty gash on his face while flying into the stands a few years ago, he's one of the rare baseball players willing and able to sacrifice his body in an effort to make a play.

"That's the way Torii plays," manager Mike Scioscia said. "He's such a good athlete that, when he dives or whatever he's doing, he's athletic enough to protect himself. When you go flying into the stands like that, there's a lot of metal and plastic and things that you can bang into that can cause some injuries."

Hunter said he was nicked up, but healthy enough to play in Sunday's game, a 12:35 p.m. start.

"That's what they pay me for, to play hard," Hunter said.