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 > Little League Online > Media > Little League News Archive > 2007 > Minnesota Twins’ Torii Hunter Presented Distinguished Little League Graduate Award

Minnesota Twins’ Torii Hunter Presented Distinguished Little League Graduate Award

WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. (Sept. 20, 2007) – Torii Hunter, all-star outfielder for the Minnesota Twins and an advocate for increasing the number of African-American children playing baseball, received the Bill Shea Distinguished Little League Graduate Award before Monday night’s Major League Baseball game at the Minneapolis Metrodome between the Twins and Texas Rangers.

Stephen D. Keener, president and chief executive officer of Little League Baseball and Softball, and David James, director of the Little League Urban Initiative, were on hand to present the award to Mr. Hunter.

“Torii Hunter has distinguished himself as a player in the Major Leagues, but more so by the respect and support he has given to the next generation of baseball players through his generosity to the Little League Urban Initiative,” Mr. Keener said. “Growing up in Pine Bluff, Ark., Mr. Hunter embraced Little League. When his talent and determination allowed him to achieve his dream of playing baseball professionally, he proudly accepted the responsibility of being a role model for children, which makes us proud to honor him with this award.”

The Distinguished Little League Graduate Award was established in 1987 in honor of the many contributions made to Little League Baseball by Bill Shea, former president of the Little League Foundation. Mr. Shea is credited with bringing National League Baseball back to New York in the early 1960s, while also working diligently for the advancement of Little League Baseball. The award is presented to a former Little Leaguer in Major League Baseball who best exemplifies the spirit of Little League Baseball. Consideration for selection includes the individual’s ability and accomplishments, as well as that person’s status as a positive role model.

Through the Torii Hunter Project, Mr. Hunter and several fellow Major League Baseball players contribute funds to support the annual Little League Urban Initiative Jamboree, which is designed to encourage more African-American children to play baseball. For years, the Little League Urban Initiative – Little League’s endeavor to bring the benefits of the program to families in urban areas – has provided young people a chance to play baseball where there was once little opportunity.

The Twins are the first MLB franchise to provide financial support to the Project, having donated $10,000 earlier this year.

Playing for National Little League in Pine Bluff, Mr. Hunter participated in the Little League program for three years and was a two-time Little League International Tournament selection. Chosen 20th overall in the 1993 amateur draft, Mr. Hunter made his Major League debut in August 1997. For 11 seasons, he has been a fixture in centerfield for the Twins, winning six-consecutive Gold Gloves. Mr. Hunter has more than 1,000 hits and nearly 200 home runs to his credit.

“My family is honored, and I am proud, to receive the Distinguished Little League Graduate Award,” Mr. Hunter said. “My participation in Little League in Pine Bluff, Ark., opened doors for me, and showed me there were other opportunities in life that I could have with hard work and perseverance. I want to thank the volunteers of the Pine Bluff National Little League who took the time to nourish and care about what became of my life. I would also like to thank the Little League organization and the Little League Urban Initiative for sharing my vision to provide opportunities like I had to African-American youngsters who need it the most.”

Past recipients of the award include baseball hall of famers: 2000 – George Brett, El Segundo (Calif.) American Little League; 1999 – Robin Yount, Woodland Hills (Calif.) Sunrise Little League; 1993 – Gary Carter, West Fullerton (Calif.) Little League; 1990 – Jim Palmer, Beverly Hills (Calif.) Little League; and 1989 – Tom Seaver, Spartan Little League, Fresno, Calif.

In a separate ceremony on Monday, the 2007 Little League All-Star team from Coon Rapids (Minn.) National Little League were recognized for winning the Midwest Region championship and reaching the 2007 Little League Baseball World Series in Williamsport, Pa.

Stephen D. Keener, left, president and chief executive officer of Little League Baseball and Softball, and David James, right, director of the Little League Urban Initiative, present Torii Hunter of the Minnesota Twins with the 2007 Bill Shea Distinguished Little League Graduate Award. Mr. Keener and Mr. James presented the award to Mr. Hunter prior to a Twins game at the Minneapolis Metrodome. Mr. Hunter is the first active Major League Baseball player to be recognized with this award.