Torii Hunter, all-star outfielder for the Minnesota Twins, has been selected as the 2007 William A. “Bill” Shea Distinguished Little League Graduate Award recipient.
The award was established in 1987 to serve a two-fold purpose. First, and most importantly, 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 both the individual’s ability and accomplishments and that person’s status as a positive role model. Mr. Hunter is the first active Major League player to be so honored, and will formally receive the award later this year.
“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,” Stephen D. Keener, president and chief executive officer of Little League Baseball and Softball, 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.”
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.
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. At the plate, Mr. Hunter is a career .271 hitter, with more than 1,000 hits, and nearly 200 home runs.
“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.”
The Distinguished Little League Graduate Award was established 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.