Former Junior Olympic Champion Pitches In Playoffs For Texas Rangers

March 29, 2012, 12:06 p.m. (ET)

(Colorado Springs, Colo.) – When Tommy Hunter (Dallas, Texas) took the mound on Tuesday night during Game 4 of the Texas Rangers' ALCS playoff series against the New York Yankees, more than 50,000 fans watched as Hunter pitched the first four innings of the game.

What those fans may not have known was that Hunter’s ability to fight for his team was first learned during his days on the judo mat.

A two-time Junior Olympic National Champion in judo by the age of 12, Hunter took up the sport as a 5-year-old and attributes his athletic success on the field, in part, to lessons learned on the mat.

"Judo's a big mental game and baseball's 90 percent mental and 10 percent physical. So you could say judo's contributed a big part for me,” Hunter said in an interview earlier this year with  "You really have to be in control, kind of like when you're out on the mound. It's you versus one guy - one-on-one.”

Although Hunter gave up judo to focus on baseball during high school, he went on to say that he continues to use both the psychological focus he learned in the sport as well as an impressive amount of flexibility.

“I'm pretty flexible for being as big as I am. I'm probably the most flexible person on this team, hands down,” Hunter said in the interview.  “It's helped me keep my wits about me and when things aren't going my way. That's what judo is - keeping focused and being able maintain in stressful situations, and being able to get out of them.”

Hunter and the Rangers earned their third win of the series on Tuesday night and will return to Yankees Stadium with the hopes of closing out the series on Wednesday.

Read more about Hunter, both on the mat and the mound in the following articles:

Hunter Back Atop the Mound, May 13, 2010
Hunter Maneuvers From Mat to Mound, June 22, 2008

Tags: Tommy Hunter