Hunter honored for work with kids
Created by the Rotary Club of Denver in 1991, the Branch Rickey Award honors individuals in baseball who contribute to their communities and are strong role models for young people.
"It means a lot," Hunter said. "That's something that you should do, whenever you can. My grandmother always instilled in me to treat people like you should be treated, and if you can do anything to make people's lives better, you've got to do it. That's part of your responsibility as a human being, and especially as a ballplayer."
Roland Thornton, president of the Rotary Club of Denver, made the announcement Thursday at the Denver Athletic Club.
Each year, major league teams nominate a player, coach or executive, either active or retired, for the award. Last year's winner was Trevor Hoffman, who left San Diego for Milwaukee this season.
Hunter will be honored at a banquet in Denver on Nov. 14.
Hunter's community works include the "Torii Hunter Project Education Initiative," which provides college scholarships to students in California, Arkansas, Nevada and Minnesota.
He also is active in the Andre Agassi College Preparatory Academy in Las Vegas and last year helped fund construction of a youth softball field in Placentia, Calif. He has partnered with Major League Baseball to help maintain and improve baseball diamonds in inner cities and is involved with Big Brothers and the Prostate Cancer Foundation.
"Even in the minors, I tried to go out and talk to the kids wherever I was," Hunter said. "When they look at a major league baseball player, that's a major thing in their lives. When they meet a ballplayer who takes time out to shake a hand or sign an autograph or teach them how to play the outfield, it just gives them that boost to go on with their lives. That's a big thing to a kid.
"I just love the looks on kids' faces when I go. They get so excited, so happy, and you can see how much it means to them. A lot of these kids don't have dads. There's a lot of dads missing in this world, so some of them look up to other men. If you're in a position to be an example to them, that's what you've got to be."
The award is named in honor of the late baseball executive known for creating the framework for the modern minor league farm system and for breaking baseball's color barrier by signing Jackie Robinson, the first black player in the major leagues.
"Branch Rickey, that's the man," Hunter said. "He was just as important as Jackie Robinson. People forget that. He got threatened, too. He had to have the courage, and it's amazing to be a part of that."
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press
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