Torii Hunter honored in Williamsport

Five-time All-Star inducted into Little League Hall of Excellence

Torii Hunter honored in Williamsport

WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. -- Five-time All-Star and recent retiree Torii Hunter was honored this week as one of three people inducted into the Little League Hall of Excellence. Along with softball superstar Cat Osterman and former New York Giants head coach Tom Coughlin, Hunter received Little League's highest honor.

"I'm truly honored to be enshrined with so many great people, like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and George Bush, all types of people. A little boy from Pine Bluff, Ark., never thought he could be here and be honored like this."

This was Hunter's second trip to the Little League World Series, after first visiting a decade ago while beginning his work helping Little League with its Urban Initiative, which supplies the financial and educational assistance to local leagues to provide all children, from any economic background, the ability to play baseball and softball.

"The Urban Initiative means a lot," Hunter said. "I was part of it in Pine Bluff. I had dreams when I was a kid to get on a plane and travel to play the game of baseball. A lot of kids in urban areas don't have the chance to travel like that, so it's something near and dear to my heart.

"And in the Majors, we watched every LLWS game. We were in love with it. I'm a big fan."

This time around, Hunter spent plenty of time soaking in the Williamsport environment, talking to players and being honored on the field before a game. He even found his name on the wall in the Hall of Excellence.

"While I was here, I've tried to encourage the kids to soak in the moment, to enjoy it and not take it for granted," Hunter said. "This is something that's going to be with you for the rest of your life. Whether you give up a home run or hit a home run, it's going to stick with you.

"To see Williamsport, and the mountains, and the camaraderie you build with people from all over the world, from different cultures and different nationalities, it's amazing. Now the players can use Facebook and Instagram to keep in touch. I had to remember phone numbers."

Swept up in the moment, Hunter couldn't help but recount his favorite personal Little League memory.

"My first home run was a grand slam against the guy that is still my best friend today, and who was one of the best pitchers in our league," Hunter said. "He threw pretty hard, supposedly the hardest thrower in our league. I never hit a home run, so I didn't know what to do -- you know, I was a football guy. I sprinted around the bases."

Little League President and CEO Steve Keener said that Hunter played Little League Baseball in the 1980s and that he supported the program throughout his MLB career. "Throughout his life, both on and off the field, Mr. Hunter has exemplified what Little League stands for -- leadership, dedication, and giving back," Keener said. "We are honored to enshrine him into the Little League Hall of Excellence."

Mike McCormick is an editorial director for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.