© 2009 MLB Advanced Media, L.P. All rights reserved.
05/23/09 6:40 PM EST
Hudson tours US to get youths involved
Hunter, Pierre join Dodgers infielder in Urban Youth effort
By Ben Platt / MLB.com
COMPTON, Calif. -- Dodgers second baseman Orlando Hudson got a little help from his friends on Saturday at the Major League Baseball Urban Youth Academy, as more than 175 kids attended Hudson's "Around the Mound" tour that also featured Dodgers outfielder Juan Pierre and Angels center fielder Torii Hunter. "It's great to see all these kids come out here today to hear what us three clowns have to say," said Hudson. "We want hem to have fun with us. It feels good." The tour was created to get more African-American youths interested in the game of baseball. Hudson has gathered other African-American Major Leaguers to help support his efforts. The three-time Gold Glove Award winner and his friends will venture to cities the Dodgers visit to speak to middle school, high school and Little League baseball teams in urban areas. Hudson said it's never a problem to get friends like Pierre and Hunter out to talk to kids about baseball. "Both guys had no problem with that," said Hudson, who on April 13 became the first Dodgers player to hit for the cycle in 39 years. "I've got them rounded up and set up for the rest of the season. It's just lovely because we are all one big family. We all have fun -- we're one big family, and we're friends." "When my man O-Dog has a charity event, or whatever he has going on, I'm always there for him because he's always there for me," said Hunter, whose Torii Hunter Foundation recently donated $10,000 to help restart the Compton Little League. "Whenever I need him, I know he will return the favor. This is something dear to both of our hearts. We're just trying to come out here and get the inner-city kids to play the game of baseball, to get those guys involved in baseball. Baseball's a lovely game, and we want to get kids involved and try and market that side of the game." "This is a great thing that Orlando is doing," said Pierre, who took over in left field for the Dodgers after Manny Ramirez's suspension and has made the most of the opportunity, batting over .400. "He's put himself out there to make it a point to do it as well as I have, and whatever he needs me to do I'm always for it, and vice versa. It's not only trying to get the kids in baseball and keep them in baseball -- I think the more they see us, live and in color, the more it will inspire them to stay in school, hit the books and continue to play baseball." Urban Youth Academy director Darrell Miller agrees with Pierre. "It's great to get players out here to actually talk to the kids," said Miller, a former catcher with the Angels who has run the academy since it opened in 2006. "The missing component is the connection with the players and the kids. We've been doing this for a while now, and the kids at the academy hear a lot from a lot of retired players, but they don't often get to hear from guys that they can see, monitor and feel like they can touch on TV. "I think Orlando introducing this 'Around the Mound' tour is huge because it's getting players in front of kids, and he's going to do it in cities throughout the United States, and that's the next part of it. The players talked about media exposure during their chat with the kids -- commercials and all that stuff, and a lot of that is driven by individual media and shoe companies, which is out of our control, but we can control this. It's great for the guys to be here because they are part of the solution." The players, all southern born and bred, were very impressed with the academy facility and compared it to the fields they grew up on when they addressed the kids. "I played on a cow pasture in Louisiana," said Pierre to the young players. "We would have to dodge around cows and horses every time we played." "I grew up in Pine Bluff, Arkansas," said Hunter. "We had nothing like you have here. We played on a plain dirt field." "I grew up in Darlington, South Carolina," said Hudson. All we had was a big race track. You have a nice facility here. The facility we had wasn't as nice -- it was a much smaller field, but we did the best we could with it. You should appreciate what you have. We are three southern boys here -- we have Louisiana, Arkansas and South Carolina. There's a lot of crawfish, catfish and wild hog eating there." All three players met with the kids and smaller groups to help the kids with hitting, fielding and baserunning. Hudson plans on visiting other cities, including New York, Atlanta, Cincinnati and Washington, D.C., as well as returning to the academy with other great stars like Ken Griffey Jr. "The kids get to see the great players they grew up watching," said Hudson. "They get to shake their hands and see them up close and personal, and that's a lot of fun."
Ben Platt is a national correspondent for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.