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Torii Hunter Classic

Torii Hunter Classic

The 2015 Babe Ruth 14-Year-Old World Series is being hosted by Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and played at Taylor Memorial Field.   Hill At Taylor Field

Babe Ruth League Board Member Jim Hill has been known as the ambassador to everything youth baseball in Pine Bluff for over five decades.  One thing you can count on during baseball season - you will always find Hill primping and pampering Taylor Field.

Taylor Field will be celebrating its 75th anniversary during the World Series.  It's not the first time Pine Bluff has played host to a Babe Ruth World Series, and the city has earned a profit each time.  In preparation for the 2015 tourney, Jim Hill went to work to literally keep Taylor Field shining bright.  In typical Jim Hill fashion, he put together an outrageous "to do" list.  And in typical Jim Hill fashion, he was not going to use any of the sponsorship funds allocated for the World Series.  His "to do" list had to be accomplished without placing a burden on the ongoing fundraising activities associated with the World Series.

The ultimate project on the list was to totally replace the field lighting system.  Taylor Field was still using the old transformers (from 1940).  Hill worried that any day he could go out there, push the switch, and they would be gone.

Well as only Jim Hill can do, he was full steam ahead with plans and specifications finalized, as well as proposals submitted. However, a lack of funding became a major stumbling block.  Hill had scraped together just enough money and commitments that maybe after a successful World Series and a small campaign, he would have the funds to purchase a new lighting system.

They don't call Jim Hill the Youth Baseball Ambassador for nothing.  Hill planned for Torii Hunter to be a special guest at the Babe Ruth New Lights At Taylor FieldLeague World Series.  During a conversation about souvenir bags Hunter was going to donate to the World Series, Hill mentioned the various "to do" items list he was working on for the World Series, which included a new lighting system.  While Hunter showed interest, the issue lay dormant for a while.  DormantTorii Hunter2 until one day an envelope was delivered to Taylor Field with a single check from Mr. and Mrs. Torii Hunter with a note for Jim Hill to use the funds for Taylor Field as he saw fit.  The amount of the check is shared only by Jim Hill and Torii Hunter, but the results can be seen at Taylor Field, which has a new state-of-the-art Musco Lighting System that will serve future generations of Pine Bluff ballplayers.

While it was Jim Hill's visionary efforts to get the project started, it was the generosity of Mr. and Mrs. Torii Hunter that made it a dream come true.  And because of this generosity and out of sincere appreciation, Jim Hill renamed the 2015 Babe Ruth 14-Year-Old World Series the 2015 Torii Hunter Classic.

Taylor Memorial Field was named in honor of Pinchback Taylor, a Pine Bluff real estate dealer who in 1938 donated the land on which Taylor Field is located.  The construction of Taylor Field began in late December, 1938.  On the 22nd of that month, James McGaughy had announced that President Roosevelt had approved the WPA (Works Progress Administration) to construct the ballpark at a cost of $40,000, the second most expensive ballpark ever built in Arkansas at the time. 

In the 1940s and '50s, the field was home to the semi-professional Pine Bluff Judges and Cardinals of the Cotton States League. Taylor Field has hosted the Babe Ruth League 13-15 World Series in 1972, 1975, 1994, 1998 and 2000. And in 2003, it hosted the 13-Year-Old World Series.

The 1972 tournament was attended by Jerome "Dizzy" Dean, a 1953 Baseball Hall of Fame inductee, and Claire Ruth, Babe Ruth's widow.  In 1995, then President Bill Clinton threw out the first pitch of the National Amateur All-Star Baseball Tournament (NAABT) which was televised on ESPN.  The NAABT also brought in other big names in baseball to Taylor Field, such as 10-time MLB All-Star and 1974 National League MVP Steve Garvey and 1983 Hall of Famer and 16-time Gold Glove Award Winner, Brooks Robinson.

In 1996, the Pine Bluff Locomotives of the Big South played at Taylor Field.  Other local ballplayers that grew up playing at Taylor Field who have or have had successful careers are former pitcher for the Texas Rangers, Mike Jeffcoat, and of course, heavy hitter, five-time All-Star, two-time Silver Slugger Award winner and nine time Gold Glove Award winner Torii Hunter.

 

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