11/06/2007 1:33 PM ET
Hunter: Changing kids' perceptions
Torii Hunter, who has been inducted into the Arizona Fall League Hall of Fame and named Marvin Miller Man of the Year in recent days, is using the offseason awards circuit to help promote awareness of his growing program to expose inner city kids to baseball.
The 31-year-old center fielder generally keeps his charitable endeavors a private matter, but has decided to change tacks because awareness is one of the Torii Hunter Project's greatest needs.
"You try not to get recognition for the things that you do. There are a lot of things I do that a lot of people don't know about," he told MLBPLAYERS.com in this week's Players Talk show. "But with the Torii Hunter Project through Little League baseball, I had to get word out in the media -- radio and TV -- and it's working."
Hunter uses his charitable foundation to support Little League's Urban Initiative, which hosts selected teams from urban areas to participate in the Urban Initiative Jamboree. The second was held this May with support from the Torii Hunter Project and other Major Leaguers he's recruited to the cause.
Among the fellow big leaguers joining Hunter were Ken Griffey Jr., Jacque Jones, Rondell White, Dontrelle Willis, Shannon Stewart, Sean Casey, Gary Sheffield, Corey Koskie, Dmitri Young, Matt Lawton and LaTroy Hawkins.
"We had 16 teams out there in Williamsport, Pa.," Hunter said. "We had teams from Compton, the Bronx, N.Y., the South Side of Chicago. The kids had never been on an airplane before, never been out of their environment."
The idea isn't necessarily to turn the participants into professional baseball players, but to expose them to a different world and different life experiences through baseball.
"Seeing something different can inspire these kids to do something different," Hunter said. "Seeing something different can really change your thought process, whether it's at school or wherever, and I'll use baseball to do that."
Hunter believes his path was changed by trips he made as a kid. Now, he's a two-time All-Star coming off one of his best seasons. He batted .287 with 28 homers and career highs of 107 RBIs and 303 total bases in 2007 before entering the free agent market for the first time last week.
"I'm going to enjoy the process, watch and see what teams are doing," Hunter said. "I'm looking for a team that's going to put the product on the field, that's willing to win every year."