I just got into Arizona to host a charity golf event, and I figured it was a good time to catch up.
First off, I want to say I’m really happy we signed my buddy Bobby Abreu to come back and play for the Angels. I’ll get to pick his brain some more now. Bobby’s so smart, and so valuable. He can hit in a lot of places in the lineup, and he’s a great leader, sharing all his knowledge and wisdom. He also cracks everybody up with his sense of humor, and you need that over a long season.
I spoke with Chone Figgins a few days ago, but we didn’t talk about his free agency situation. I know he’ll do what’s right for him and his family. Chone’s a smart guy. I was eating some red beans and rice, and he said he was hungry. That guy loves his red beans and rice.
I got word today that I won my ninth straight Rawlings Gold Glove, and that’s always a thrill. What makes it so meaningful is that it’s voted on by the managers and coaches, the men who know what’s really going on out there. Much respect from them is important to me, because they recognize all the things that go into being a good defensive player, like hitting the cutoff man, throwing to the right base, backing up guys along with making all the routine plays – and some spectacular ones.
I was disappointed my teammates, Figgy and Erick Aybar, didn’t win their first Gold Gloves. Both those guys were deserving. They worked so hard and had tremendous seasons, defensively and offensively. Those are two of the premier athletes in the game, with great speed and quickness and strong arms. Their time will come.
I thought I was having my best season when I injured my groin running into walls first at Dodger Stadium and then in San Francisco. Missing all those games, 32, that really hurt. When I came back, my groin was sore for another month or so, but I’m not second-guessing what I did. I play the game all out. You can’t worry about getting hurt.
I’m really looking forward to staying healthy next season and putting up some good numbers and helping us to get to our ultimate goal this time, the World Series. We were so close . . . but the Yankees beat us fair and square in the ALCS, and they showed how good they were winning the World Series.
I like to relax as much as I can after a long season, but there are things to take care of, too. The Torii Hunter Celebrity Golf Classic I’m hosting will benefit schools and kids in need the next two days at the Wild Horse Pass Hotel & Casino.
Justin Upton of the Diamondbacks and his brother, B.J., of the Rays also are here helping out, and we’ve got a lot of big names showing up. Benefits will go to The Torii Hunter Project, The Heart of a Champion Foundation, Teleos Preparatory Academy in Phoenix and Sacaton Middle School on the Gila River Indian Reservation.
Tonight we have a gourmet dinner and a performance by Brian McKnight, a great recording artist. On Wednesday, we’ll have an exclusive pre-round golf clinic hosted by former PGA Tour professionals and golf TV analysts Gary McCord and David Feherty. Golfers, sponsors and some of the biggest names in sports and entertainment will then hit the course for a round of golf at The Whirlwind Golf Club at Wild Horse Pass.
Tonight’s emcee is Harold Reynolds, the former second baseman now doing TV commentary. We’re looking forward to having some of my teammates – Joe Saunders, Howard Kendrick, Jason Bulger, Mike Napoli and Scott Kazmir – along with my old buddy David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, Darryl Strawberry, Nick Swisher, Derrek Lee, Tony Clark, Eddie Murray, Chris Young, Don Baylor, Kenny Lofton, Mark Grace and many others.
If you want to know more about the Torii Hunter Celebrity Golf Classic or to purchase tickets, call (480) 245-7177 or visit www.toriihunter.com.
I hope all my fans and fans everywhere have a great offseason. I’ll stay in touch now and then. Take good care of yourselves and your families.
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.