Oliver, Hunter visit middle school
Angels players honor winner of Robinson essay contest
ANAHEIM -- There is pitcher's fielding practice, and then there is pitcher's fielding questions practice. Sometimes even experienced Major League pitchers can be surprised at some of the questions they receive when given the opportunity to face a room full of eighth-graders.
"They offer up questions," Angels reliever Darren Oliver said. "Sometimes they ask, 'How much do you make?' And sometimes it gets kind of personal."
That was the point brought to the plate by Oliver, who joined Sharon Robinson, Jackie Robinson's daughter, on Monday to visit Stacey Clegg Middle School in Huntington Beach.
Robinson and Oliver visited students, led by eighth-grader Amanda West, who was honored as the grand-prize winner of the "Breaking Barriers: In Sports, In Life" essay contest.
The Breaking Barriers essay contest honors students for their personal efforts to overcome challenges by using the characteristics best exemplified by Jackie Robinson when he broke baseball's color line in 1947.
The contest is a major component of the education program called Breaking Barriers: In Sports, In Life, a multi-curricular character education program developed by Major League Baseball and Scholastic, Inc., and directed by Sharon Robinson.
While Oliver fielded questions during the day, outfielder Torii Hunter and Robinson participated in a pregame ceremony to honor essay winner West.
Oliver put as much into his time as he puts behind his fastball.
"It gets kind of personal for those kids," he said. "Some of the stories, I was trying to hold back tears. Some of them were kind of tough. It made coming to the park like nothing. They were like 14-year-old kids. We had to take the microphone a few times because it was tough."
Hunter is acutely aware of Robinson's heritage.
"It's up my alley. I love it, man," he said. "I'm glad we're doing stuff like that. We have like 50 kids coming today. Jackie Robinson's legacy lives on, and Sharon Robinson has been doing a good job for years. I love her to death. I'm glad and I'm excited that this is going on."
Hunter said that he has met with Robinson many times, but their discussions rarely delve into her famous grandfather.
"We talk about life; where we're from, home and what food we eat," he said. "Different things, it's always just a regular conversation. It's never about Jackie Robinson, because I know she gets hounded with that, so I don't bother with it. I can't do that. I know that everyone talks to her about it."
John Klima is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.