Former University of Miami slugger Aubrey Huff tells a lot of stories in his new book, some hilarious such as the time that a naked Pat Burrell knocked on his door looking for soap for the shower … apparently not knowing that Huff’s mother was in the room.
But some of the stories Huff tells in his new book, “Baseball Junkie,” are disturbing — verbal hazing, hard partying and little, if any, dedication to school work.
Huff, now 40, retired and living in San Diego, is a two-time World Series champion with the San Francisco Giants, in 2010 and 2012. He also won a Silver Slugger award in 2008.
Yet, as Huff details in his book, he was suicidal from 2012 to 2014. Thankfully, Huff didn’t squeeze the trigger of his gun and instead lived to tell his story.
Huff spends 32 pages of his book writing about his experiences as a Hurricane under coach Jim Morris and then-assistant Turtle Thomas.
It was Thomas who first called Huff on the phone in the recruitment process. Huff was a little-known junior college player at the time, playing for Vernon (Texas). When Thomas called, Huff hung up on him, thinking it was a hoax.
Huff eventually spoke with Thomas and passed a tryout, only to be greeted rudely by his new Hurricanes teammates and mocked endlessly for just about everything, including his clothes, his Texas accent and the fact that he was a virgin.
“It’s time for the Aubrey Huff Virginity Update,” is how he would be greeted upon entering the clubhouse each day.
Added Huff: “The worst part of each day was the team stretch. It was a big tradition to [gather] down the right-field line and unleash a series of scathing verbal attacks on one another. Nothing was out of bounds. The amount of trash-talking is something I have yet to experience again. I’ve never seen such hostility toward human beings, much less teammates.”
The harassment started from the moment he arrived at Miami and knocked on the apartment door to meet his new roommates, Huff said.
“I had never been around such egotistical and unhelpful individuals in all my life,” Huff wrote. “Not only did they give me a hard time 24/7, they didn’t even show me around town or introduce me to the other guys. It seemed like I was an outcast before I even moved in.”
As mentioned, Huff had interesting things to say about former Canes outfielder Burrell, who was coming off an NCAA batting title in his freshman season.
“Pat walked with a strut that told everyone in that locker room he was the head lion,” Huff wrote. “It seemed like every guy on the team worshiped him. … I would always catch the ladies [at UM] tripping over themselves when they passed by Pat.”
Those 1997 and ’98 Canes teams, Huff said, talked way more about women than they did about baseball.
Huff said he nearly quit the team before he ever played a game. Instead, he survived Miami by creating an alter ego: Huffdaddy.
All of a sudden, Huff — or Huffdaddy — fit in with his hard-partying and arrogant teammates, he wrote.
That changed everything as Huff helped the Canes make it to the College World Series in both of his seasons. And he became everything he hated about his teammates when he first arrived.
“Baseball by day, party by night,” Huff wrote. “Oh, and we did mix in a class or two every now and again. … I was part of the cockiest, most fun-loving group of guys I’ve ever been around.
“We destroyed teams on a weekly basis, not only on the scoreboard but verbally. We talked so much trash, we mentally handicapped other teams.”
As a senior, Huff hit .412 with 21 homers and 95 RBI. In his two-year Canes career, he hit .400 and had a .719 slugging percentage.
In 2009, he was inducted into the UM Sports Hall of Fame.
But life after retirement from baseball hasn’t been easy for Huff, who has battled depression and anxiety. Huff’s lowest point came in 2014, when he found himself on his knees and in his closet with his .357 magnum pointed at his temple.
“That’s when I had an epiphany,” Huff told the Miami Herald. “That’s the same caliber pistol that killed my father.”
Huff’s father, who was working as an electrician, was killed as an innocent bystander during a domestic dispute. Aubrey was 6 years old at the time.
Today, Huff said he’s in a much better place spiritually, emotionally and mentally. He and his wife have two sons, ages 8 and 6.
Among his former UM teammates, Russ Jacobson is his best friend and Alex Santos is his financial adviser. Huff said another ex-Canes player, Kris Clute, is a Miami police officer, and they speak occasionally.
As for his roommates that he found so rude initially, Ryan Grimmet and Kevin Nykoluk, Huff said he grew to understand them and actually appreciate them.
“They were trying to toughen me up,” Huff said. “I was a scared little boy when I got there.”