"Lights out!" is a phrase to describe when "Big" Jon Hunton comes into a game to close it out, especially the final three outs of the 2011 Liberty Division Championship against Southern Maryland.
"He's a gamer, he wanted the ball when the game was on the line." said Bullpen Coach Jamie Quinn of Hunton.
Hunton was originally drafted by the Florida Marlins in 2001 (28th Round, 824th Overall) but choose not to sign and attend Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas. He was then selected again in 2002 (39th Round 1157th Overall) & 2003 (24th Round, 717th Overall) by the Montteal Expos again opted not to sign but to continue to play at Lamar.
In 2004 he was drafted again but this time by the Chicago Cubs (11th Round, 336th Overall) and signed. He played four seasons in the Cubs organization before being released in 2006.
After bouncing around a few different Independent leagues from 2007-09, he was signed by the Oakland A's organization and advanced all the way to AAA with the Sacramento River Cats in 2010.
Prior to joining the Ducks in 2011, he pitched for the Grand Prarie Air Hogs of the American Association where he wad 7-2 with a 1.76 ERA, and 25 saves in 49 games.
On September 11, 2011 Hunton was acquired from the Air Hogs.
CM: You were drafted three times (2001 by Florida, 2002 & 2003 by Montreal) before you eventually signed with the Chicago Cubs after being drafted in 2004? Why didn't you sign any of the previous times you were drafted?
JH: I was drafted 4 times in 4 years from my senior year in high school at North Plainfield H.S. (North Plainfield, NJ) until my junior year at Lamar University (Beaumont, TX). the reasons for not signing were that the money wasn't worth passing up free college via scholarships and since I was primarily a basketball player in high school I didn't feel that i was ready for the next level in baseball. Not until after my junior year of college where my head coach, Jim Gilligan took me under his wing and helped me with my mechanics.
CM: 2008, why by far your best season. What did you do in the off-season of 2007 that helped you have such a great year?
JH: After being released in 2007 by the Cubs in camp, I did an overhaul on my mechanics and my mental side of things as far as a pitcher. I had success in 2007 and didn't get signed so with the confidence I built up in 2007 doing my own thing and not getting back into affiliated ball, I busted my ass to get myself in great shape and got traded to the Fort Worth Cats which is where I wanted to be. My confidence and being comfortable in my surroundings helped me flourish in 2008 with Fort Worth which then carried over to Somerset Patriots where I was setup on the championship team. I'd say in a nut shell confidence and finally knowing myself as a pitcher
CM: You were back in affiliated ball in 2009 & 2010 with the A's, but didn't get called up? How did you feel about that?
JH: I thought it was a long shot. I finished with a 3.57 era the whole 2010 season in AAA and through out the season I had better numbers than some other guys but they seemed to always get the call over me. When i didnt get a major league invite the following off-season while playing winter ball in Mexico, I knew I wasnt anything other than a cheap filler to them.
CM: How do you compare the Atlantic League to Pacific Coast League and AAA?
JH: Although the AL (Atlantic League) is said to be equivalent to AA/AAA level, the PCL (Pacific Coast League) was definitely way more advanced than the AL. the average talent of the players in AAA is obviously greater and more vast, but the AL is definitely the best league in indy ball, hands down.
CM: How did you become a Duck?
JH: Just like i did in 2008 with the Somerset Patriots, I contacted the GM (Mike Pfaff) via email and told him what I was doing over in Grand Prairie in the American Association, who I was and what I was about and what my plans were to do after. I simply asked him if he was interested in my services and he was.
CM: You got the final out in the 2011 Liberty Division Championship, What did that mean to you?
JH: Honestly it was just another 9th inning for me, another dog pile I was at the bottom of...at the same time it meant a lot to be handed the ball to finish the job after just getting to the team a week earlier...and to do it with 9 pitches, 8 of which were strikes. I was def in the zone...what would have been more memorable would have been to get the final out in Atlantic League Championship series. The team (Ducks) brought me in with open arms and treated me as if i had been there all year long with them. That was definitely a boost knowing that even despite me taking Bubbie's (Buzachero) closers role.
CM: What do you think of Ducks fans?
JH: The Ducks fans were great, prob one of best in all of indy ball!
CM: Do you use your height (6'9") to intimidate batters?
JH: I don't use my height to intimidate hitters, i just does it naturally.
CM: Who's your favorite baseball player?
JH: Growing up a Yankees fan from New Jersey...Don Mattingly and Mariano Rivera
CM: If you could play catch with one person dead or alive, who do would it be?
JH: If I could play catch with anyone, it would be with my dad