Torii Hunter has established himself as one of the top Major League Baseball players for the past 14 years.

Torii Hunter has established himself as one of the top Major League Baseball players for the past 14 years.

A 1993 graduate of Pine Bluff High School, Hunter is a four-time All-Star and the recipient of nine consecutive Gold Glove Awards for his accomplishments on the diamond, putting him on the fast track to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. But it’s the things he does off the field that will notch his place of fame in small towns such as Pine Bluff.

As an introduction on his website, Hunter is quoted as saying, “The way I grew up was pretty tough, I vowed to myself, that if I ever got the opportunity to help anybody that I was going to do it. That’s one of the reasons why I’m so passionate about helping kids.”

A resident of Prosper, Texas, Hunter is currently playing for the Los Angeles Angels after spending the majority of his professional career with the Minnesota Twins.

As Hunter prepares for the upcoming season, his on-field efforts become priority. His focus unwavering from the professional path he chose. Yet, through assistance from ground troops in various cities, including Pine Bluff, his off-field efforts continue.

Jerricka Kelly is one of those extensions of Hunter. As public relations advisor, Kelly has taken on the responsibility of tending to Hunter’s charitable ways. So his giving continues as he continues his work in the outfield taking base hits from opposing hitters.

“Torii does recognize that Pine Bluff is a struggling community,” Kelly said. “He is very concerned about the youth, their livelihood and their future. His focus is on their sports, education, wellness and recreation. “

Kelly, also a Pine Bluff native who lives in Dallas, journeys back to the Bluff as often as possible to carry out Hunter’s good deeds. She visits areas in the city, discusses problems with those who interact with the city’s youths and develops solutions to those issues. Kelly then takes her findings to Hunter, who in turn donates financial contributions based on her recommendations.

“Twenty years ago, we grew up here as kids and it was a different place,” Kelly said. “We didn’t know the devastation of Pine Bluff then. You can’t see the future. But the compassion, and what is going on here, he is not oblivious to it.”

Kelly noted that Hunter is not seeking recognition for his efforts and that many of his charitable offerings have gone unnoticed in the area for many years. From structural work at places like Merrill Community Center to speaking engagements at local high schools and universities, Hunter has made himself available in an effort to help others.

“He is a very private person,” Kelly said of Hunter. “He and his wife (Katrina) are both natives of Pine Bluff. Both graduated from Pine Bluff High School. They are private in their giving because they are doing it because it needs to be done, not to say, ‘Hey look at what we are doing.’”

Another example of Hunter’s work is in a scholarship program called Hunter’s Hundred. Hunter’s Hundred provided a total of 100 scholarships to qualifying students from 2009-12 from three specific areas in California, Nevada and Pine Bluff, including all school districts in the Pine Bluff area.

As Hunter’s career winds down, the veteran will have more time to give back to Pine Bluff on a more personal level. Kelly’s job is to be the hands and feet of Hunter’s charitable ways while he focuses on finishing out his near-certain hall of fame induction.

“If you let people know that this is happening, maybe they will join the bandwagon,” Kelly said. “I have personally taken a stand. I have developed a 501(c)3 and am going to partner with local foundations and go after some of the grants that are available. We are trying to build quality programs that based on the fundamental values that Torii believes in.”

Those in the community that are willing to get involved are urged to call the Pine Bluff Parks and Recreation at 536-0920 to sign up for mentoring programs, coaching positions or tutoring sessions just to name a few. All programs are in need of assistance from volunteers.