EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Sports

September 17, 2009

Word of an Angel

Lawrence Boys & Girls Club members heed Hunter's message

BOSTON — Alejandra Ortega was standing on the field at Fenway Park two hours before last night's thrilling ninth-inning rally for the Red Sox, 50 feet from several major leaguers milling around the batting cage.

She might as well have been standing at her locker among her friends at Greater Lawrence Technical School.

At least that's how she felt after 30 minutes with Angels star outfielder Torii Hunter.

"I thought I was coming here to hear about baseball," said the 16-year-old Ortega. "And then, talking to Torii, he sounded like the kids I see in the hall at school. His stories are a lot like the stories I hear in school all the time."

Ortega was one of 15 members of the Lawrence Boys & Girls Club who met Hunter. The meeting was an auction item purchased at the Hot Stove Cool Music event in Boston a few weeks ago by Jim Pannos of Andover, who is on the board of governors of the Lawrence club.

ESPN's Peter Gammons, who sung and played the guitar at the event, which raised money for Theo Epstein's Foundation To Be Named Later, put together the auction item with Hunter.

The affable Hunter, who Gammons called "one of the nicest people in baseball," expected to talk a little baseball and maybe give a pep talk to the group about hard work.

The Lawrence teenagers wanted more.

"They were asking questions about my dad, and his problems with drugs," said Hunter in the Angels dugout afterward. "They wanted to know about my mom and how she struggled to raise five boys on a teacher's salary and keep us grounded. They wanted to know about how I grew up and the issues I faced. I'm cool with that. I have no problem sharing those experiences."

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