Brian L. Hunter pointed to his family.
His track athlete sister, he told The Lakeland Ledger that next spring, helped him with his speed. His parents helped him with his work ethic, making fielders work quickly to get him out.
"That's the only way I was taught to play," Hunter told The Ledger. "I'd guess I'd have to put that on my parents. They instilled that in me. They're my biggest role models."
The speedy Hunter was in the midst of his best years in the majors. In 1997, he'd had 74 stolen bases, leading the majors. He'd take 42 in 1998 and another 44 in 1999.
Hunter joined the Tigers for 1997, traded the previous off season by the Astros, the team that took him in the second round of the 1989 draft.
Hunter made AA Jackson in 1993, AAA Tucson and then Houston for six games in 1994. Hunter spent most of that year in the minors hitting .372 and earning the title of best minor league hitter.
''I bring speed to the game, offensively and defensively,'' Hunter told the Orlando Sentinel in April 1995. ''Whether it's hitting and taking an extra base, stealing, scoring runs, or chasing down balls, I build my whole game on speed.''
''Until now," Hunter told the paper, "I don't think I've been ready, not major-league ready, but I'm ready now.''
Hunter spent 78 games with Houston in 1995 and 132 in 1996. His breakout year was that 1997 campaign with Detroit.
But the bat that had earned him accolades began to slip. He hit .302 in 1995, that dropped to .254 in 1998 and .232 for 1999.
In 1998, Hunter got the dubious honor of going 0-13 in a single day, a double header July 21 against the Yankees. "He's going to have nights like that," Tigers manager Buddy Bell told The Associated Press. "A lot of players have had nights like that."
Hunter was actually the first ever to have a night like that, The AP pointed out.
Hunter went on to play for the Mariners, Rockies, Reds, Phillies then returned to the Astros for his final two years, 2002 and 2003. His 2001 year with the Phillies saw him play that spring with the other Brian Hunter, Brian R. Hunter.
- Orlando Sentinel, April 15, 1995: Hunter Has Speed, Bat In His Corner
- Lakeland Ledger, March 17, 1998: Hunter Tigers' Sparkplug, Part 2
- Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Associated Press, July 22, 1998: Hunter's night is one big zero
Made the Majors: 711 - 54.4%
Never Made Majors: 597-45.6%
5+ Seasons in the Majors: 307
10+ Seasons in the Minors: 181