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Hunter urges fans not to drink and drive

Hunter urges fans not to drink and drive

ANAHEIM -- Having had a few days to process the tragic wreck -- the deaths of young Angels pitcher Nick Adenhart and companions Courtney Stewart and Henry Pearson along with serious injuries sustained by Jon Wilhite on Thursday morning -- Torii Hunter has a message, a plea, to fans.

"Please, people, do not drink and drive," Hunter said before Sunday's series finale against the Red Sox at Angel Stadium. "I challenge people to stop doing this. Just stop. Be a smart drinker if you're going to drink. Be responsible.

"Don't get behind a wheel after you've been drinking. Just don't do it. If you're going to go out drinking, make sure you have a designated driver or call a cab. One phone call, that's all it might take to save lives -- including your own."

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Hunter, 33, emphasized that young people especially need to give this their serious, undivided attention.

"I know how it is when you're young -- you think you're invincible," he said. "This should hit home to young people everywhere that you're not invincible. It can be all over in a heartbeat.

"As you get older, you understand things. My mom and dad used to tell me to be careful, don't go out drinking and driving. They knew from experience. I thought I was invincible, like most young people. I've done some dumb things, I don't mind admitting.

"Sometimes, they say, you've got to let kids touch the fire to let them know it's hot. Just don't get in that fire."

Hunter still is struggling with the loss of Adenhart. As one of the team's leaders, Torii took a personal interest in the young pitcher, as he does all of the Angels' youthful talent.

"Nick was such a good kid, so talented," Hunter said. "I'm really having a hard time with this. That night, his last game when he shut out the A's for six innings, I kept coming up to him in the dugout, encouraging him, telling him he was getting it done, that he had what it takes.

"That was amazing what he did, when you think about it. He shut down a team that was hot, facing guys he'd been watching and admiring since he was in junior high, like Jason Giambi, Nomar Garciaparra, Eric Chavez. And striking them out. He was on his way, man."

Adenhart, 22, had just pitched in his fourth Major League game.

"He was a special kid," Hunter said. "I'm just glad his dad got to see it, got to talk to him after the game, tell him he loved him. Having kids of my own, I can't imagine what that must be like.

"Losing Nick tears me up, tears all of us up. This is something that will be with us all season, forever. Every time we come to the park, we'll be thinking about Nick. But we have to go out and peform, give our all. That's what Nick would want from us. He was a competitive guy. He was all about winning.

"That's one way we can honor Nick now -- going all out and playing the game from the heart."

Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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