Dodgers, Angels project proud heritage

For a couple of years now, people have been talking about the decline of the African-American player in Major League Baseball. The sport has made it a priority to get inner-city kids interested and involved in the game again, and the players have also done their part. I have the Torii Hunter Project, CC Sabathia has his, Jimmy Rollins has his thing going, Derrek Lee. Guys are doing what they can to get inner-city kids back into the game.

This is important to us, because it’s our heritage. Back in the days of the Negro Leagues, baseball was huge for African-Americans. They played in front of 20,000, 30,000 fans. Everybody was all dressed up, men in suits, women in dresses, everybody looking fine and having a great time.

The last 10 years we’ve seen a decline in African-Americans in the Majors, but there are signs it’s coming back around. Two years ago it was on its way to 7 percent African-American representation in the Major Leagues, but now it’s up to 10, 11 percent. That’s encouraging. It tells me these programs and projects are starting to work.

This series with the Dodgers is especially exciting for me. I’m always into the game — I don’t hide my love of playing baseball — but this Interleague series is definitely special. I look over at the other side of the field and see Russell Martin, Matt Kemp, Orlando Hudson, James Loney, Juan Pierre, Cory Wade. And Xavier Paul just went on the disabled list. That’s a lot of African-Americans on one team.

Over in our clubhouse, we’ve got Chone Figgins, Howard Kendrick, Darren Oliver, Gary Matthews Jr. and myself. It really feels good to see African-Americans playing the game and showing kids how they can have long, productive careers — and make a lot of money in this sport.

Like anything worthwhile, it’s never easy. It takes a lot of mental toughness. It’s a humbling game with a lot of failure involved. But it’s worth all the time and effort, believe me. I signed when I was 17, and I’m signed through 37 years old. That means I’ll have 20 years in the game, at least. How many guys do that in the NFL and NBA?

Last year it was the Angels, Rays and Brewers who had the highest percentage of African-Americans, but it looks to me like it’s the Dodgers and Angels now. Two L.A. teams, playing an exciting brand of baseball — old-school style. We go first to third, run the bases hard, play great defense. We compete..

I will have a big smile on my face tonight. I feel a lot of pride in what I’m seeing. I want inner-city kids to understand how great this game is, how you don’t have to have a 40-inch vertical leap or be able to run through a building to play baseball. You need desire, a strong work ethic, and you have to know how to handle failure and adversity.

The game is getting back to speed, moving away from all the focus being on power. You see how important the stolen base is again, with guys like Carl Crawford and Figgy. Heck, I’ve even got eight bags. Bobby Abreu is stealing bases.

This is the game our grandparents and their parents grew up loving. Knowing everything the Dodgers have represented for bringing Jackie Robinson and Don Newcombe and Roy Campanella into the game and breaking down that color barrier, I’m so happy to see the team they’re putting on the field now.

I’m always excited to play the game and never take for granted how fortunate I am. This is going to be a great weekend of baseball. 

10 Comments

Torii, once again, AWESOME CATCH!!! I totally LOVE watching you play!

Torii, you are on your way to the Angel’s MVP for sure, and if the Angels win the World Series, maybe even the League MVP. Great game. You saved more runs tonight with your hustle and glove. Love it!

Mr Hunter,

Man you gotta stop with those great catches out there in center field cuz our neighbors are complaining about the noise ;) lol just kidding its always a pleasure watching you play the game you so visibly love. I love the game of baseball and boy am i glad that the angels have a kick butt centerfielder who is also a good role model

best of luck!

Another great post, Mr. Hunter! I think fans recognize and accept talent regardless of race. And the Angels have definitely evolved into a multi-cultural (and madly talented) team over the past few years. But when a sports columnist like Jeff Miller of the OC Register, writes a column basically accusing Angels fans of being racists, it is a disgusting and offensive insult. http://www.ocregister.com/articles/rodriguez-fans-angels-2252061-season-most
Mr. Miller should’ve looked at a 2002 and a 2009 team photo before he wrote that column. He also should’ve looked at attendance. Angels fans will ALWAYS welcome, support and accept talented players. Role models come in all colors and when a child is inspired by one, it can make all the difference in their life. Thanks for all your inspiration! (Oh…and is that gold I smell?) ;-)
Lori
http://luckylori.mlblogs.com

I think race should be left alone as an issue all together when it comes to professional sports. The player (like Torii) who demonstrates a superior ability over others should be the one who gets the job…regardless of his race (and Torii, you are superior). You amaze me every game with your talent…and I am so greatful that you signed with the Angels. We haven’t had a good center fielder in a while…much less a gold glove winner for the past several seasons. You astound me. And that is my point: I don’t think of you as a BLACK center fielder…I think of you as GREAT center fielder.

A couple of years ago, a player, and I can’t remember who, was complaining loudly about the decline of black players in MLB and saying that the league in itself was racist…saying that the trend was to hire more Latin players because they are “easier to control than black players and required less money” and I just thought it was absurd. Those were his words, not mine. I am pretty certain that Scott Boras gets as much as he can for every player in his stable regardless of their color.

Look at the great players in history. History does not judge the players by their color…but by their abilities and accomplishments. Take Ruth, Aaron, Bonds, McGwire, Ripken…history sees those players glorified for what they accomplished in the game…not for the color of their skin.

I think that the decline of inner city players on the roster the past few years has more to do with desire than anything else. Basketball is increasingly more popular these days in inner city communities as well as suburban communities for some very simple reasons, and it doesn’t take rocket science to tell you that if kids are playing basketball, the result is going to be more basketball players, again, regardless of race. And it’s easier to put together a game of basket ball…it can be one on one, two on two, etc. The point being that a good fun game of basketball can be accomplished with as few as two players. Baseball requires 18 players…not as easy to organize from a group of neighborhood kids. I think THAT is the reason for the decline of inner city youth playing baseball…nothing more.

Randy – ExposurePerfect.com

As someone who was raised by a Brooklyn Dodgers fan, I couldn’t agree more with this post. I’m so glad the percentage is climbing, albeit slowly.
http://thisfanslife.mlblogs.com

So very proud of you…you are a great person wanting great things for your heritage and the youth. I love that you are honest and that kids have a great role model. You are so right to say that focus, hard work and a strong desire can create an amazing career. Keep talkin the talk and walkin the walk and I know that the right youth will hear you and follow your lead.

You guys all seem to be missing the point. All Torii wants to do is give these inner city kids opportunity. It IS easier to get up a quick game of basketball because of the logistics. Torii just wants to provide these talented atheletes with the opportunity to play and show them what a great game baseball is and what a proud heritage they have in it.

In case you don’t know where your own team plays, they play in Anaheim, not L.A.

Torii, indeed it was a good weekend of baseball!

Hope you’re doing ok after hitting that wall. Beautiful catch!

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