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Active Hunter up for Clemente Award

Active Hunter up for Clemente Award

SEATTLE -- Center fielder Torii Hunter is the Angels' nominee for the 2009 Roberto Clemente Award.

The award recognizes the player who best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement and the individual's contribution to his team. It is named in honor of the former Pirates outfielder, whose spirit and goodwill will always be remembered. Clemente died in a plane crash while attempting to transport relief supplies to earthquake-stricken Nicaragua on Dec. 31, 1972.

Fans can participate in the selection process of the overall winner of the award now through Oct. 4. The fan ballot winner will be tallied as one vote among those cast by a special selection panel of baseball dignitaries and media members. The panel includes MLB Commissioner Bud Selig and Vera Clemente, widow of the Pirates' Hall of Fame right fielder whose spirit and goodwill always will be remembered.

Voting fans also will be automatically registered for a chance to win a trip to the 2009 World Series, when the national winner of the Roberto Clemente Award presented by Chevy will be announced.

"Roberto Clemente was a great player and a great man, so this is a huge honor," said Hunter, who will be honored in pregame ceremonies at Angel Stadium on Sept. 10. "This selection by the organization means a great deal to me.

"I have always believed my responsibilities extend well beyond what is expected of me on the field. My family and I have made a commitment to make a difference in the lives of others, not just with some of the resources we have available to us, but with our time, as well."

Determined to help others rise above difficult circumstances after growing up amid gang violence, drugs and poverty in Pine Bluff, Ark., Hunter has contributed enormously in every respect to various communities through the Torii Hunter Project.

In partnership with the Heart of a Champion Foundation, and in conjunction with the Angels Baseball Foundation, he launched The Torii Hunter Project's Education Initiative, bringing character building programs and college scholarships to students in Anaheim, Calif,; his hometown of Pine Bluff; Las Vegas and Minneapolis.

Hunter's ongoing work is a comprehensive, long-term effort to impact youth in need throughout the country. The project focuses on four areas related to youth: sports, community, education and wellness. Under the Education Initiative, the eight-time Rawlings Gold Glove Award-winning center fielder unveiled Hunter's Hundred, which will provide a total of 100 scholarships to qualifying students from now through 2012.

"I've never been around a guy like that," said closer Brian Fuentes, in his first season with the Angels after 12 years in the Mariners and Rockies organizations. "In Seattle and Colorado, we never had one guy who was that much of an impact as a leader.

"He's a true professional in everything he does, the way he carries himself on and off the field. He earns a lot of respect from his peers, wherever he goes. It just seems like he does the right thing all the time -- and it's genuine.

"He's involved in so many things. I could never do that. He has a pretty heavy workload, being a great player and a great spokesman for the team, the game. His personality is so infectious. You talk to him for 20 minutes, and you feel like you can open up to the guy, like you've known him for years."

Added teammate Howard Kendrick: "He's a great teammate, one of the best people you'll ever meet. Torii is always there for you, especially in tough times when you need some advice and encouragement."

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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