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Torii Hunter addresses police shootings in Twins HOF speech

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MINNEAPOLIS — The Minnesota Twins inducted Torii Hunter into the team’s Hall of Fame on Saturday, and the popular outfielder concluded his acceptance speech with a plea for unity in the wake of two recent police shootings that have sparked unrest across the country.

Speaking in front of a near sellout crowd before the Twins hosted the Cleveland Indians, Hunter wrapped up a joke-filled speech by addressing shootings, one of which happened in a Twin Cities suburb.

“This is the United States of America,” Hunter said. “The word united means togetherness. United we stand, divided we fall. A house divided cannot stand.”

Philando Castile, who is black, was shot and killed by a police officer in Falcon Heights during a traffic stop on July 6. His death followed the police killing of another black man, Alton Sterling, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana., and has sparked demonstrations across the country. Just last weekend, demonstrators shut down a major highway connecting Minneapolis and St. Paul to try to draw attention to the situation.

“We have to take action and we have to make change,” Hunter said. “But before we make change in our country, we have to change ourselves and our hearts.”

“We must love the one next to us no matter the color of someone’s skin, gender, views or religious preferences,” he continued.

Hunter, who is black, has never been shy about speaking out and has been a big part of Major League Baseball’s efforts to address the shrinking number of black kids who play the game at the youth level.

Hunter also came under criticism during his playing career for several comments directed toward gays, including when he said his Christian upbringing would make him “uncomfortable” if he had an openly gay teammate. He also recorded an ad in 2014 for Asa Hutchinson, now the governor of Hunter’s native Arkansas, saying he supported Hutchinson in part because he was for “keeping a marriage between one man and one woman.”

“In order to change mindsets we have to replace hate with love in our hearts,” Hunter said on Saturday night.

He quoted Albert Einstein, “The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but those who watch them without doing anything.”

Hunter received his blue Twins Hall of Fame blazer from Rod Carew. He spent 12 of his 19 big league seasons with the Twins, appeared in two All-Star games for them and won seven Gold Glove awards while playing center field.

“We have seen a lot of hate being displayed,” Hunter said. “We are not born with hate. Hate is a learned behavior.”

Nationals GM Rizzo won’t reveal length of Martinez’s new contract

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WASHINGTON — Dave Martinez spoke Saturday about managing the Washington Nationals for “many, many years” and over the “long term” and “quite some time,” thanks to his contract extension.

Sharing a table to a socially distanced degree with his manager on a video conference call to announce the new deal – each member of the duo sporting a 2019 World Series ring on his right hand – Nationals GM Mike Rizzo referred to the agreement’s “multiyear” nature, but repeatedly refused to reveal anything more specific in response to reporters’ questions.

“We don’t talk about terms as far as years, length and salaries and that type of thing. We’re comfortable with what we have and the consistency that we’re going to have down the road,” said Rizzo, who recently agreed to a three-year extension of his own. “That’s all we want to say about terms, because it’s private information and we don’t want you guys to know about it.”

When Martinez initially was hired by Rizzo in October 2017 – his first managing job at any level – the Nationals’ news release at the time announced that he was given a three-year contract with an option for a fourth year.

That 2021 option had not yet been picked up.

“The partnership that Davey and I have together, our communication styles are very similar. Our aspirations are similar, and kind of our mindset of how to obtain the goals that we want to obtain are similar. I think it’s a good match,” Rizzo said. “We couldn’t have hit on a more positive and enthusiastic leader in the clubhouse. I think you see it shine through even in the most trying times.”

The Nationals entered Saturday – Martinez’s 56th birthday – with a 23-34 record and in last place in the NL East, which Rizzo called “a disappointing season.” The team’s title defense was slowed by injuries and inconsistency during a 60-game season delayed and shortened by the coronavirus pandemic.

World Series MVP Stephen Strasburg threw just five innings because of a nerve issue in his pitching hand and players such as Starlin Castro, Sean Doolittle, Tanner Rainey, Adam Eaton and Carter Kieboom finished the year on the IL.

“This year, for me, we didn’t get it done. We had a lot of bumps in the road this year. But I really, fully believe, we’ve got the core guys here that we need to win another championship,” Martinez said. “I know Mike, myself, we’re going to spend hours and hours and hours trying to fill the void with guys we think can potentially help us in the future. And we’ll be back on the podium. I’m really confident about that.”

Rizzo was asked Saturday why the team announces contract lengths for players, as is common practice around the major leagues, but wouldn’t do so in this instance for Martinez.

“The reason is we don’t want anybody to know. That’s the reason,” Rizzo said, before asking the reporter: “How much do you make? How many years do you have?”

Moments later, as the back-and-forth continued, Rizzo said: “It’s kind of an individual thing with certain people. I don’t want you to know what I make or how many years I have. Davey doesn’t want you to know. And I think that it’s only fair … when people don’t want certain information out there, that we don’t give it.”

There were some calling for Martinez to lose his job last season when Washington got off to a 19-31 start. But Rizzo stood by his manager, and the team eventually turned things around, going 74-38 the rest of the way to reach the playoffs as an NL wild-card team.

The Nationals then beat the Milwaukee Brewers, Los Angeles Dodgers and St. Louis Cardinals to reach the World Series, where they beat the Houston Astros in Game 7.

Washington joined the 1914 Boston Braves as the only teams in major league history to win a World Series after being 12 games below .500 during a season.

“Everything from Day 1 to where he’s gotten to now, he’s grown so much. He’s really become one of my favorite managers of all,” three-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer said after helping Washington win Saturday’s opener of a doubleheader against the New York Mets. “Davey really understands how to manage a clubhouse, manage a team. We saw it in the postseason. He knows how to push the right buttons when everything is on the line.”