News from the Tennessee Valley Sports

Bama's Hunter faces a decision
Tide pitcher mulls staying in school vs. signing with Rangers

By Josh Cooper · 340-2460

TUSCALOOSA — Alabama right-handed pitcher Tommy Hunter has former coach Jim Wells figured out. Sort of.

"He speaks his mind, and that is what people like about him," Hunter said. "He says what he thinks, and he doesn't think twice about it."

That would explain Wells' announcement Thursday to leave Alabama and retire from coaching college baseball.

But Hunter, the Texas Rangers' second-round pick earlier this month — 54th overall in the draft — has his own ironclad decision to make in the coming weeks.

The junior-to-be must decide whether he will sign with the Rangers or stay at Alabama.

Hunter finished 7-5 with a 3.87 ERA this past season to go along with 96 strikeouts in 107 innings.

Hunter said that either way, Wells' decision to retire will not affect his own choice.

"I don't care who coaches. It's a team game," Hunter said. "The only thing the coach does is put the guys out there.

"It has nothing to do with the team. I could care less who coaches because I'm going to have my teammates when I come back."

That was not meant to be a slight toward Wells, with whom Hunter said he enjoyed a good relationship. Instead, Hunter meant that to be an endorsement for the university and his teammates.

Hunter talked with Wells on Friday. According to Hunter, Wells said that he had thought about retiring for a while, and wanted to leave a talented baseball team for the next Crimson Tide coach.

Alabama’s top three power hitters, Alex Avila (14 home runs) Matt Bentley (12) and Kent Matthes (eight) are returning.

Hunter did not disclose how much money it will take to sign him, but Texas has until Aug. 15. If it does not sign him by then, Hunter will return to Alabama.

The 54th overall pick of the 2006 draft, Brad Furnish, received a $600,000 deal from the St. Louis Cardinals, while Paul Kelly, the 54th pick in 2005, signed a $650,000 deal with the Minnesota Twins.

“I’m not going to burn any bridges anywhere I go,” Hunter said.

“If the Texas thing works out, it works out. If it doesn’t, I come back to the school, start off with a new coach. I have two unbelievable opportunities sitting in front of me, so I can’t complain.

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