Steve Physioc, who was fired as the Angels television play-by-play man in November (along with his color man, Rex Hudler), is showing there are no hard feelings, at least when it comes to outfielder Torii Hunter, who "Phys" is strenuously defending.
Physioc's love letter to Hunter, carried on OCLNN.com, does not go into the player's remarks that produced the need for a love letter.
USA Today hosted a committee of Major League Baseball experts, including Hunter, to talk about the number of black players. A story the national newspaper carried earlier this month attributed the following to the center fielder:
"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.' . . . As African-American players, we have a theory that baseball can go get an imitator and pass them off as us. It's like they had to get some kind of dark faces, so they go to the Dominican or Venezuela because you can get them cheaper. It's like, 'Why should I get this kid from the South Side of Chicago and have Scott Boras represent him and pay him $5 million when you can get a Dominican guy for a bag of chips?' . . . I'm telling you, it's sad."
The comments lit up the blogosphere, with many accusing Hunter--an All-Star who routinely wins praise for what he does on and off the field--of racism.Hunter later blogged, "I am hurt by how the comments attributed to me went off the track and misrepresented how I feel. My whole identity has been about bringing people together, from my neighborhood to the clubhouse. The point I was trying to make was that there is a difference between black players coming from American neighborhoods and players from Latin America. In the clubhouse, there is no difference at all. We're all the same."
He later discussed the situation with some of his Latin American teammates.
"I talked to [Erick] Aybar and Bobby [Abreu] and all those guys and they're not worried about it," Hunter said. "They know me."
Physioc writes that he knows Hunter also.
"I have seen this incredible gentleman from Pine Bluff, Ark., do so much for the team and the community. Torii Hunter is one of the best teammates I have witnessed in my 30 years covering Major League baseball."
Physioc claims to have been standing in the corner of the clubhouse in Tempe, Arizona, when Hunter arrived for his first spring training with the Angels in 2008.
"When he came through that clubhouse door all energetic and excited, I noticed how every teammate was genuinely glad he was there. Blacks, whites, Latinos--all with smiles on their faces, delighted to see 'Mr. Positive.' I thought to myself, this guy is going to be the captain of the Angels ship. Torii Hunter's the Pied Piper."
Physioc goes on to write about Hunter's graciousness with charities, people in the clubhouse and the broadcast television crew.
Last year Hunter won the Branch Rickey Award for his community service in Southern California, Minneapolis, Pine Bluff and Las Vegas. He helped build a youth softball field in Placentia and gives to the Boys and Girls Clubs and RBI Leagues regularly.
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He is a great player, a great teammate and a great humanitarian. Torii Hunter is a man who brings people together.
So please forgive this wonderful guy for using the wrong word. I know Torii Hunter's heart. The world--and the Angels clubhouse--is a better place because he is in it.
It's as if Physioc, a homer through and through, never left the Big A broadcasting booth.
If his valentine reads sappy (or even misplaced) to you, just imagine what the Hud Man would have written.