Originally written on Fox Sports Detroit  |  Last updated 10/19/14
LAKELAND, Fla. -- How does a leader become one? They do so by admiring other leaders and aspiring to pick up their torch. In Torii Hunters case, those leaders ranged from his mother, Shirley, to his Minnesota Twins teammate, Kirby Puckett, and a revered opponent, Ken Griffey, Jr. And at every turn, ever since he was a young boy attending the Indiana Street Baptist Church in Pine Bluff, Ark., the leader in his life has been Jesus Christ. Hunter, the Tigers new right fielder, has a special way of connecting with more than the rawhide of a baseball. He bonds with people, and they follow him. When a season reaches its darkest days, during the inevitable losing streak or some messy controversy, you can be sure his torch will be lit brightly and followed. He just knows how to work the crowd and get people on the same page, Tigers center fielder Austin Jackson said. Everybody enjoys his presence, and one of the most important things in a clubhouse is having people enjoy your presence. There are different ways to lead, and hes already showing us what a leader he is. Hes a guy everyone wants to be around and everyone wants to follow. Hunter goes out to dinner with teammates, talks with their children in the clubhouse, and treats everyone with respect and courtesy. Hes getting to know his teammates as people and gaining their trust. With trust, you have the keys to lead. He brings leadership, 2012 American League MVP and Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera said. Hes a great, great guy, and he signed here because he wants to win. That means a lot. Signing a two-year contract for 26 million on Nov. 19 after seeking out the Tigers brought Hunter instant credibility with everyone in the organization. With credibility, you have the right to lead. LEARNING TO LEAD Hunter, 37, picked up on that from Hall of Famers Puckett and Paul Molitor while playing for the Twins. Puckett, whose career ended two years before Hunter made his big-league debut in 1997, went out of his way for Hunter during spring training camps in Fort Myers, Fla., and became his mentor. I watched guys like Paul Molitor and Kirby Puckett, Hunter said. Where did Paul go, what did he do? Where did Kirby go, what did he do? "When Paul left (and retired in 1998), his presence was missed. When Kirby left, his presence was missed. And thats why I wanted to be like Paul and Kirby; I wanted to be a leader. Kirby took care of me, mentored me. He called me Little Pup, and talked to me about finances, family, how to carry yourself, how to smile. Its hard to be a leader, but its important. Young guys are watching. Pucketts career was over in 1995, cut short by glaucoma after only 12 seasons. But he was voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame on his first ballot, in 2001, because he was a dynamic performer who made his presence felt throughout the game. When Puckett died of a stroke in 2006 at the age of 45, his spirit lived on in players like Hunter and the countless others he touched. That's why Hunter brings more than nine Gold Gloves, 297 homers and 1,986 hits to Detroit. He also brings a presence and a sense of accountability that says, Follow me. THE GOLDEN RULE Long before Puckett influenced Hunter, his mother made an indelible impression. My mom took me and my four brothers to church every Wednesday night and Sunday morning, Hunter said. And it didnt matter if you stayed up too late playing video games, you were going to church. She wanted us to learn the word of God, the parables and the scriptures. We learned the most important rule -- the Golden Rule -- if you want to be treated with love and respect, you need to treat others with love and respect. "Whether or not you are a Christian, you have temptations, and all of these things you learn in church will help you. Indiana Street Baptist Church was his beacon in a tough neighborhood in Pine Bluff, where a young boy had to knuckle up and protect yourself to survive. A church is your home, Hunter said. I wanted to be baptized as a young boy of 5 or 6, but my grandma wanted to wait until she was sure I knew the difference between heaven and hell, right and wrong. "When I said, Jesus Christ is my lord and savior, I was baptized when I was 11 or 12. He can still remember the shouts of his mother that day in the church sanctuary: Oh! God! Hallelujah! The foundation had been set for her son. PAYING FORWARD Speak with Hunter for five minutes and you'll hear him mention being fruitful and paying forward as surely as he'll track down a ball hit to the gap. Its all about showing character and performing honorable deeds for Hunter. I dont push my Christianity on people, Hunter said. I like to use parables and try to be subtle in my lessons on everything. Sometimes the little things are important. Like last year, Mike Trout was signing his autographs with an M and a long line and a T and a long line. I told him, Look, 150 years from now, when you are dead and gone, someone is going to hit this ball in the weeds and pick it up. They are not going to know whose autograph that is. But if you write M-i-k-e T-r-o-u-t, they will go look up your name ... He changed the way he signs his autograph. When he signed with the Tigers, Hunter called pitcher Rick Porcello to see about buying his No. 48, which had been Hunter's number with the Twins and Angels. They agreed to have Hunter donate money to the Hurricane Sandy relief efforts on the New Jersey shore, near Porcellos home. That was a great idea Torri had, Porcello said, and it tells you what he is all about. It was a quick connection made between two new teammates. Hunter has also learned that its important to pay forward to opposing players. He recalled throwing his helmet after making an out as a young player and trotting out to center field to find a surprise. Griffey, the Seattle Mariners superstar, awaited him with a message. Griffey told me, Hey, brother, take the lumps. Youre going to be a superstar. Keep your chin up, smile. "He lifted me up. I learned about paying it forward. Its about being fruitful." Hunter had a similar conversation with a young Victor Martinez, telling him to smile as a rookie opponent. Now they're teammates for the first time. Said Hunter: When I saw Victor here, he told me, I never forgot that, Papi! And Victor just killed us. "I told him, I never shouldve told you that. Hunter smiled and shook his head. You'll see opponents and teammates gravitating to him for the same reason. Hes somebody everybody wants to follow.

Mike Pettine considered benching Hoyer for Manziel

Percy Harvin speaks out: 'I'm not a perfect person'

Report: Kobe has prevented Lakers from signing top talent

Red Sox may be ready to move Yoenis Cespedes

Alleged details of War Machine's suicide letter released

Austin Davis says Rams security didn't recognize him


LeBron: Bulls are 'much better' than Cavs right now

Redskins to stick with Colt McCoy over Kirk Cousins

Rick Pitino: Louisville will beat FSU in football

Report: Rams considered favorites to move to LA

Kobe to Julius Randle: You’re an idiot if you (expletive) this up

Slava Voynov arrested on D.V. charge, suspended indefinitely

WATCH: Boxer viciously attacks referee at Euro Championships

WATCH: Salvador Perez hassles Lorenzo Cain at media session

Lane Kiffin trashed in Tennessee political ad

WATCH: Lawrence Timmons throws up on field during MNF

10 NBA players who could be traded by the All-Star break

WATCH: Jimbo Fisher gets annoyed, cuts interview short

WATCH: Les Miles has classic reaction to dumb question

WATCH: Tennessee coach tried to trip Ole Miss player?

News station congratulates Gary Payton for breaking TD record

Did Sidney Crosby troll Flyers fans with Halloween costume?

Why Dan Mullen is not leaving Mississippi State

12 amazing stats from Week 7

MLB News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

Lane Kiffin trashed in political ad

Details of War Machine's suicide letter leaked

Angry Jimbo Fisher cuts off interview

Is Kobe's deal hurting the Lakers?

Tenn. coach tried to trip Ole Miss CB?

GGG continues his reign of terror

The 6 things that mattered this weekend in the premier league

News station congratulates Gary Payton for TD record

Ray Rice could be back by Week 10?

12 amazing stats from Week 7

World Series preview

Favre: I got calls about playing last season

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.