At last, Hunter saw a smile from his boy.
"That was the first smile I had seen in the last two weeks," Hunter said.
And that, in essence, let Hunter know that it was safe to go back to work. After being on the restricted list since May 14 -- to be with a scared teenager dealing with sexual-assault charges the family has denied -- Hunter returned to the Angels shortly thereafter.
"Through all this stuff, my family and I, we got a little closer," Hunter said from the Angels' dugout on Monday. "We were able to talk a lot, and the last couple days, they seemed like they were doing a lot better and I felt like they could handle it from there."
Hunter arrived in Anaheim on Sunday afternoon and took batting practice on the field before the series opener against the Yankees on Memorial Day, but the Angels will wait at least a day to activate him. Hunter has been running and hitting in the batting cage in the backyard of his Prosper, Texas, home, but he needs a little more time to get acclimated.
"We'll assess him a little bit later today and see how he feels tomorrow, with a possibility of playing," said manager Mike Scioscia, whose club headed into a nine-game homestand riding a six-game winning streak. "If not, we'll let him continue to work out until he feels he's physically where he needs to be to get back in the lineup."
Hunter got the call on a Monday morning -- shortly after returning from a weekend set against the Rangers and before opening up a home series against the Athletics -- that his son was in trouble. He had just been arrested, along with four others, on suspicions of child sexual assault, which is a second-degree felony.
About two hours later, Hunter was on a flight back home.
The decision was an easy one.
"If I'm going to call myself the head of the household, I should be there for my family when they need me," Hunter said. "I sacrifice a lot for baseball, so why not sacrifice the same for my family? That's what I want to do. I love them more than baseball -- and I love this game.
"I want to thank the fans, you guys, for all your support, all your prayers, because they've definitely been worth it. And I thank the organization for allowing me to go home and be with my family."
For legal reasons, Hunter couldn't go into much detail about the matter, but he said "everything's positive" back home and McClinton-Hunter is now "doing great."
Hunter's attorneys said last week that the accuser, a 16-year-old girl, recanted everything she previously told police in a phone conversation with a close family friend of the Hunters, who recorded the exchange. That evidence has since been turned over to the department.
"I have to let the justice system play its part," Hunter said. "Hopefully this thing gets dropped, but we're ready to go to court no matter what."
Hunter watched almost all of the 14 games the Angels played without him the last two weeks. He was tempted to come back when Vernon Wells (right thumb surgery) and Ryan Langerhans (separated right shoulder) landed on the disabled list during a May 20 game against the Padres but knew it wasn't time yet.
Now, Hunter is back at what he calls his "safe haven."
"When I come out here for three hours," Hunter said, "I don't have to think about anything. I'm thinking about winning, playing the game, battling on the field with all my teammates and I really don't think about much. Just winning."