I’ve been told I’m up for a couple of prestigious awards, named after two of the greatest players ever, Hank Aaron and Roberto Clemente. Just being mentioned in the same sentence with these two men is enough of a reward, never mind winning.
The Hank Aaron Award is for all-around offensive contribution. Hank Aaron, he’s done a lot in this game — the 755 home runs, everything he went through to break Babe Ruth’s record of 714 for a career, including death threats. He’s a great man, a quiet man who is a symbol of having integrity, doing things right.
Being nominated for this award along with my teammates, Bobby Abreu and Kendry Morales, is a thrill for me. I’m pretty sure it’s my first time, and I’m thankful to be recognized like this.
It is a little bittersweet, the season I’ve had. I was on my way to career highs in just about every category – from walks to RBIs, batting average, slugging, on-base – when I just happened to get knocked down by a groin injury. I ran into two walls too many, I guess. I’ve never been out five weeks in a season like this, except for 2005 when I fractured my ankle and was out from July 30 to the end of the season.
Coming back after missing all that time, I’m now trying to fight back using straight athletic ability – not a great feeling.
As for the Roberto Clemente Award, it’s given out every year to a player for making generous contributions to society. I’ve been up for this before. To be singled out for helping out, that’s an honor. This guy died helping others, flying relief goods into Nicaragua after an earthquake. He’s a big inspiration.
Everything I do comes from having certain values instilled in me by my mother and grandmother. They always taught me to treat others the way I want to be treated, and that’s something I’ve always done. I’ve been blessed to be able to help others not as fortunate, not just in baseball but in life. I’ll be doing this until I die. It’s something I feel strongly about.
If you’re blessed and work hard, treat yourself, don’t cheat yourself. But be smart about it. I’m not an extravagant person. I get a lot of pleasure out of helping people through The Torii Hunter Project and in other ways. I’d like to see more players do a lot more as far as helping out the community, whatever they can.
You don’t hear a lot about guys doing that, but maybe that’s because the media focus is on more negative things or whatever. I’d like to think a lot of guys are quietly doing things to share with others not as blessed. I think we all should carry the spirit of Roberto Clemente with us and do whatever we can to help a community, to lift it any way we can.
My message to everyone is what my mother and grandmother instilled in me: Always treat people like you want to be treated, and you can never go wrong. That great feeling you get after helping somebody is a feeling you want for the rest of your life.
These are great awards, and I’m truly honored to be considered for them – for what I do on the field and off the field. My focus, 100 percent, is on a World Series ring. Right now it’s winning our division, the first big step. Our main focus right now is winning the AL West and getting to the playoffs. That gives you a shot at going all the way, and that’s our goal.