MLB Closer Latroy Hawkins

While serving as a closer for the Minnesota Twins, Latroy Hawkins was introduced by Torii Hunter to the Little League Urban Initiative—a program that helps introduce baseball to inner-city communities through field renovations, clinics, and the formation of player leagues. We spoke to Latroy to get his thoughts on Little League Baseball and why it's so important to reinvigorate the inner-city with the influence of baseball.

So, Latroy, you've been walking around the complex here for a couple of hours. Pretty awesome place for a 12-year old, huh? For a 12 year- old? I'm 33 and it's like baseball heaven to me. When Torii and I drove up we were in awe of the complex. To meet the kids playing here it was a dream come true and I'm not even playing.

Did you watch the Little League World Series as a kid? Oh yeah I've been wanting to come here since I was a kid. And lo and behold I'm 33 and I finally get to come here.

As a pitcher yourself—what do you think of the pitching here at the Little League World Series? I think the pitching is exceptional. Just watching the kids throw with velocity and they all have breaking pitches and they can spot it. To have great control and at a young age--that's something I didn't have at that age. I mean, I threw hard. But these kids now have the whole package.

Do you think they should be throwing breaking balls at that age? That's a good question. Everyone has an opinion. A lot of these kids are more mature than other kids so I don't think it'd be a problem for the bigger, stronger kids. Maybe for some others. But for most of them I don't think it's a problem.

What brought you to the Urban Initiative Program? Torii and I used to stand around the batting cages before games when we were on the Twins and we'd say, "Where'd all the African-American players go?" We've lost a whole generation of African American athletes in baseball. We've got to make sure we don't lose the next one. That's why I got involved.

Why do you think baseball's popularity has waned in the inner-city? Baseball doesn't have the appeal that other sports have. I was talking to Outside the Lines just the other day. About how baseball doesn't have a clock. Baseball is built on drama. Kids aren't into drama—they're into action. They want things to happen fast. But baseball as a sport isn't built that way.

How do you counter that? I think we have to find a way to handle both. Use marketing strategies the way the NFL and the NBA does. It starts early. Baseball isn't a sport you can pick up once you're 13 or 14 years old--unless you're extremely talented. It has to start real young—with T-ball even.

You got to meet some of the Urban Initiative teams today. I assume they were pretty excited to be here. This is like making it to the Major Leagues for these kids. They love it. We just have to bring the kids back to baseball, and find a better way to sell our game to kids.

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