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Hunter interested in joining Nationals

Hunter interested in joining Nationals

WASHINGTON -- After the World Series comes to an end, Twins outfielder Torii Hunter is expected to file for free agency, and he said on Wednesday that he has an interest in playing for the Nationals because of his close relationship with first baseman Dmitri Young.

Young and Hunter have known each other since the early 1990s, when Young played with Hunter's cousin, Basil Shabazz, in the Cardinals' Minor League system.

In fact, before the trade deadline in July, Hunter campaigned for the Twins to pick up Young for the pennant stretch, but the Nationals ended up signing Young to a two-year extension.

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"I want to watch and see what's going on. I'm interested [in going] anywhere," Hunter said by phone on Wednesday. "Dmitri Young makes it very interesting. I've always wanted to play with Dmitri. He has been one of my buddies since I was 18 years old. I used to watch those guys play and hang out. I've known him a long time."

Hunter also said that Washington's large African-American population is a factor in his interest in playing for the Nationals, as he would like to be a leader in the community. Hunter said the Braves have also piqued his interest, for the same reason.

"I always talk to my wife about being interested in playing in front of the African-American fans and trying to get the African Americans back to playing the game," he said. "If I go to Atlanta or D.C. and make a difference that way, I would love it. Trust me -- D.C. is very interesting to me as well as Atlanta."

Hunter, considered one of the best defensive center fielders in baseball, has won six consecutive Gold Gloves and helped the Twins reach the postseason four times this decade. He is coming off a season in which he hit .287 with 28 home runs and a career-high 107 RBIs for Minnesota.

But even though the Nationals are looking for a center fielder, can they afford Hunter? Though the team has not ruled out signing free agents, team president Stan Kasten said during a luncheon with the local beat writers more than a month ago that the organization would not pay outrageous prices.

Hunter declined to say how much he was seeking.

"I can't tell you [how much money] it will take to come to Washington -- not as a free agent," he said. "What's fair is fair. That's all that matters. That's one of many teams I will be watching. With Dmitri Young over there, it makes it very interesting."

Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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