FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
(DENVER, COLO) Torii Hunter, star centerfielder of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, has been named the winner of the 2009 Branch Rickey Award. Roland Thornton, president of the Rotary Club of Denver, made the announcement today at the Denver Athletic Club.
Hunter, 33, will be inducted as the 18th member of the Baseball Humanitarians Hall of Fame during a banquet on Saturday, Nov. 14 at the Marriott City Center Hotel in downtown Denver.
Created by the Rotary Club of Denver in 1991, the Branch Rickey Award honors individuals in baseball who contribute unselfishly to their communities and who are strong role models for young people. Each year, Major League Baseball teams nominate a player, coach or executive for this nationally acclaimed award. All of the nominees personify Rotary International’s motto, “Service Above Self.”
Hunter was chosen by a National Selection Committee, comprised of 300 members of the sports media, past award winners, baseball executives and Rotary district governors. All 30 Major League teams submitted a nominee for the award.
Partnering with the Heart of a Champion Foundation and the Angels, Hunter created the “Torii Hunter Project Education Initiative” to provide college scholarships and character development to students in California, Arkansas, Nevada and Minnesota. He is particularly active with the Andre Agassi College Preparatory Academy in Las Vegas, along with Derek Jeter of the Yankees and Derrek Lee of the Cubs. Last year, he helped fund construction of a youth softball field (Torii Hunter Field) in Placentia, CA. To honor the legacy of Jackie Robinson, Hunter supports Major League Baseball’s “Breaking Barriers” program. He established the Torii Hunter Project, partnering with Little League Baseball’s Urban Initiative to help maintain and improve baseball diamonds in urban cities. He is also involved with Big Brothers and the Prostate Cancer Foundation.
Hunter was selected as the 2007 Marvin Miller Man-of-the-Year, given annually to the player whose on-field and off-field performances most inspires others to a higher level of achievement.
Last year, Hunter helped guide the Angels to their fourth division crown in five seasons in his first year with the club. He received his eighth consecutive Gold Glove after not committing an error in 137 games in center field (354 total chances). He has not committed an error since August 31, 2007. He has been voted to the American League All-Star Team twice. In 2002, Hunter was named by MLB.com as the Player-of-the-Year.
The late Branch Rickey, known to millions as “Mr. Baseball,” is credited with breaking the color barrier in the Major Leagues in 1945 when he signed Jackie Robinson, the first modern day African-American player. He also hired the first Hispanic player, Roberto Clemente.
Rickey helped develop the farm system in baseball and stimulated the sport’s expansion into more cities. Always an advocate for underprivileged children, he spearheaded the development of the famous “Knot Hole Gang,” to allow kids to attend big league games.
Previous recipients of the Branch Rickey Award include: Dave Winfield, Toronto Blue Jays; Kirby Puckett, Minnesota Twins; Ozzie Smith, St. Louis Cardinals; Tony Gwynn, San Diego Padres; Brett Butler, Los Angeles Dodgers; Craig Biggio, Houston Astros; Paul Molitor, Minnesota Twins; Al Leiter, New York Mets; Todd Stottlemyre, Arizona Diamondbacks; Curt Schilling, Arizona Diamondbacks; Bobby Valentine, New York Mets; Roland Hemond, Chicago White Sox; Jamie Moyer, Seattle Mariners; Tommy Lasorda, Los Angeles Dodgers; John Smoltz, Atlanta Braves; and last year’s winner, Trevor Hoffman of the San Diego Padres.
Winfield, Puckett, Smith, Molitor, Gwynn and Lasorda, as well as Branch Rickey, have also been inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
The Branch Rickey Award is a 24-inch bronze sculpture, The Player, created by internationally prominent sculptor George Lundeen. A 13-foot tall bronze sculpture was dedicated in front of Coors Field at 20th and Blake on June 2, 2005 in celebration of Rotary International’s Centennial Year.
Tickets for the Branch Rickey Award banquet are $200 per person and may be reserved by calling the Rotary Club of Denver office at 303-893-1919. For more information about the Branch Rickey Award, visit www.branchrickeyaward.org.