Torii Hunter upset about way he's portrayed in USA Today article
Torii Hunter was fuming about the way he came off in a USA Today article examining efforts to develop black talent in baseball, a story that quoted the Angels center fielder as saying that dark-skinned Dominican players are "imposters."
The article, published Wednesday, quoted Hunter as saying: "People see dark faces out there, and the perception is that they’re African American. They’re not us. They’re impostors. Even people I know come up and say, ‘Hey, what color is Vladimir Guerrero? Is he a black player?’ I say, ‘Come on, he’s Dominican. He’s not black.’ ”
Baseball's African American population is 10%, compared with 28% for foreign players on last year's opening-day rosters.
Hunter has taken some heat for his comments, which sprang from a recent panel discussion that consisted of Hunter, Cincinnati Reds Manager Dusty Baker, agent Scott Boras, USA Today writer Bob Nightengale, former umpire Steve Palermo, Milwaukee reliever LaTroy Hawkins, Reds special assistant Jay Harrison and Chicago Cubs special assistant Gary Hughes.
One NBCsports.com writer, Craig Calcaterra, called Hunter's statement "100% unadulterated bullcrap." But Hunter, who directs much of his charitable efforts to the development of inner-city baseball, claimed his comments "were distorted and taken out of context."
"I'm not apologizing because I didn't say anything like that," Hunter said before Wednesday's exhibition game against Cincinnati. "I'm [ticked] right now. I'm upset. And people wonder why athletes don't talk to the media that much. It's stupid.
"That wasn't even the main topic of the discussion. That was like a piece of the conversation, .5% of 100%. The main topic was that there are no scholarships for baseball. ... It wasn't a negative story. It was a positive story. I try to get a lot of inner-city kids to play the game. I've done the research. That's why I have all the programs."
Baker said he left the panel discussion before the issue of race came up, but the manager said he couldn't imagine the Angels veteran as saying anything that would fuel a racial divide in the game.
"Torii is one of the most respected guys in the game by all races -- that either came out wrong, or it was interpreted the wrong way," Baker said. "I know Torii and he has a lot of Latin American friends. You hate to see any division of races in baseball and in this world, and Torii is usually one of the guys who brings people together. Like everything else, this too shall pass."
For more on the situation later today, go to www.latimes.com/sports.
-- Mike DiGiovanna in Tempe, Ariz.
Photo: Torii Hunter. Credit: Alex Gallardo / Los Angeles Times
USA Today article: Efforts to develop black talent in USA insufficient