August 24, 2006
Noon  ET

Thursday Notebook: Twins’ Hunter and Orioles’ Hawkins Visit Williamsport

By Brandon Miller
Special Correspondent

The Little League Baseball World Series witnessed a rare occurrence today when current Major League Baseball (MLB) players Torii Hunter and LaTroy Hawkins visited Williamsport in support of the Little League Urban Initiative and the Torii Hunter Project.

Since the World Series is played during the MLB season, it’s not often that active players get to attend, but that doesn’t stop them from keeping a close eye on the action.

“In Major League Baseball, Little League players are like heroes,” said Hunter. “We go into the clubhouse and watch Little League games. Some of these guys have the Major League demeanor in them now.”

Hunter’s program landed four teams at the Little League World Series this year to compete in two games on Thursday and two on Saturday prior to the U.S. and International Championships. They are: Pelham Parkway Little League from Bronx, N.Y.; North Richmond Little League from Richmond, Va.; Wilkinsburg Little League from Pittsburgh, Pa.; and Walter Pop Smith Little League from New Haven, Conn.

“I can only imagine how these kids feel, just being around the Little League World Series,” said Hunter. “You see it on TV all the time. I’m 31 years old and I’m excited. I don’t even want to go back to (my ballgame) today.”

“I think the pitching now is exceptional. They’ve had some great pitchers in the last couple years in the Little League World Series,” said Hawkins. “I’ve watched them throw with velocity and breaking pitches. Kids back in the day threw hard, but these kids now have the whole package.”

Earlier in the day, when the Hunter and Hawkins met with the four participants of the Urban Initiative games, one young player was so excited it was almost too much to bear.

“This one guy was hyperventilating. He was covering his face and I thought he was crying. I’m like, ‘I’m not Britney Spears,’ said Hunter. “It was pretty impressive just to see the reaction from some of these kids. They were pretty pumped up to see some Major League players.

The Little League Urban Initiative, which began in 2000, provides assistance packages to eligible leagues in the form of equipment, grants, field development and renovation, Little League training programs, advocacy, and networking.

The Torii Hunter Project’s mission is to “Increase the opportunities for America’s youth to enjoy the game of baseball in inner cities and beyond, and to provide an equal playing field for everyone, regardless of race, ethnicity and skill level.”

Torii Hunter, currently of the Minnesota Twins, is a five-time MLB Gold Glove winner and played for Pine Bluff National Little League in Pine Bluff, Ark.

LaTroy Hawkins, currently of the Baltimore Orioles, played for Gary Telleston Little League in Gary, Ind.

New Hampshire talks to Sox

Wednesday evening, during the first U.S. Semifinal game, the New England champs from Portsmouth, New Hampshire gathered inside Little League headquarters to take a conference call from the Boston Red Sox, who were in Anaheim for a three-game series.

Gabe Kapler, Eric Hinske, Jonathan Papelbon and Javy Lopez were among the players on the call who wished New Hampshire well in their upcoming game. The call was capped off by David Ortiz, who elicited wide smiles and subtle cheers from the kids.

Dontrelle’s Mom throws First Pitch

Joyce Guy, winner of the George and Barbara Bush Little League Parent of the Year Award, was in attendance to throw out the first pitch of the second U.S. Semifinal game featuring the New England All-Stars versus the Southeast All-Stars.

Guy, clad in a Florida Marlins number 25 jersey, is the mother of MLB pitcher Dontrelle Willis. Perhaps taking after her son, Guy tossed a perfect strike, resulting in a chorus of cheers from the crowd.

The Parent of the Year Award is named after former President Bush, and his wife Barbara, for their role as volunteers during their children’s youth, and their continued support of Little League.

Some past recipients of the award have been the parents of San Diego Padres closer Trevor Hoffman and the parents of New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter.

© 2006, Little League Baseball Incorporated
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